Some houses drip with memory. So thick it can either choke like unbearable pain or envelop like sheepskin rugs laid across hard lives.
Old pictures adorn walls, and the scent of the familiar beckons. Loving hands and warm hugs give and receive blessings in abundance. And always, family dishes passed down for generations nourish both stomachs and hearts.
There can also be pain in going back. Very little is the same, and the hands that once held fast need steadying themselves, and the legs that once strode with purpose shuffle down hallways of uncertainty. As each year passes, the only constancy is change.
And that can be disheartening.
Yet our names are written in these beams. Our stories and who we were, are, and becoming, are found in the niches, buried in the cracks. In old photo albums uncovered amongst the Christmas decor in the backyard shed. The mice-eaten edges pulled back to reveal a younger, more exuberant time. My daughters—marveling at the youthful face of their grandmother, the long hair of their grandfather, pictures taken a lifetime ago when I was a mere toddler.
I was not raised in Colorado. My parents’ home in the mountains is more of a trip down memory lane for my own children who grew up vacationing in the shadows of Pike’s Peak—a glorious, yet daunting fourteener they have only glimpsed from afar, not having ascended yet. The forts they built during their childhood on the steep landscape still stand, and the neighborhood dogs, older and slower, continue to greet them as they hike the back trails on their own.
They love the mountains as much as they love family and the grandparents who beckon them there.
Each trip is its own memory—each journey peeling back another layer, springing forth new growth and realizations. Friendships and relations come and go, but a grandparent’s love is constant—a reassurance that cannot be bought. It is just there. A steady rock to lean on, a sure beam of light. My children are learning to appreciate that, as the dimming of old age begins.
These lessons of hardship, pain borne from love and sacrifice, are all lessons I would never deny my children. To see the decline of age, to witness the unconditional love of spouses and the humble acceptance of an altered life plan. It is quite the lesson.
A hard lesson of love and hope, as well as suffering. Of birth and death, and ultimately, the path to redemption.
The lesson of Christmas.