Every year or so, I find myself sprawling in the floor of my closet, cozy in a cardboard and paper-strewn nest of nostalgia I have constructed of boxes and albums and keepsakes and photos.
Endless piles of photos. Blurry ones, beautiful ones, ones that somehow got wet and are stuck together and wrecked, some with writing on the back and even more without a date or a clue of what or whom the subject was.
Moments and milestones, phases, trends, styles, pregnancies, in pajamas, in evening wear. I am covered in babies and children of all ages. They hang from my every limb. A newborn and an eight-year old. Two little girls. Two little boys. One of each. A different set of one of each. Some with me. Some with their daddy. With and without teeth, with band-aids, with dolls and princess costumes and light sabers and Lego; at school, in bed, in the pool, in the bath; laughing, crying, sleeping.
Countless birthdays and seasons and holidays and moods. The past swaths me in memories, swaddling me with every moment of my life, and allowing me to be every age I ever was all at once. I am six, nineteen, twenty-two, twenty-four, thirty, forty, and now even older. I am an infant, a little girl, a daughter, a wife, a young mom, and a new grandmother all at the same time and I have the vivid proof surrounding me in glossy 4×6 postcards.
And every single time I dig through the tangible evidence of my life, I find myself dragged into a place of melancholy. Happy to relive those priceless moments, sad because they’re over. Amazed by the transformation and growth of my children, bothered by the fleeting progression of time.
One day last year, I’m pretty sure it was just six months ago, I was a young mom with a newborn. Ten days later I had four little kids. And, just yesterday I looked around and realized that my four tiny children were all taller than me. Driving, studying, working, going to dinner and an un-animated movie together without me. My oldest, probably just this morning, got married and had her own child who she wishes would grow up faster, just like I did with her.
I look back at old pictures and am envious of the young woman I see with those babies. She was truly beautiful, but she didn’t know it at the time. With every year that passes, she thinks that this is the year she has lost her youth. Ten years ago was the prettiest she’d ever be. It is only in hindsight that she can see herself as she really is.
Yet, in every single moment that is captured on film, I’m certain that deep inside I was wishing myself out of that phase and into the next. Never wholly satisfied with the moment as it unfolds. Longing for the relief of what might or should come next. For sleep-filled nights, the end of diapers and car seats, the putting away of baby gates forever. For the end of the anxiety I lived with that an accident was just around the corner. That I could be as pretty as I was five years ago. For more time with my husband. For a vacation.
Never fully loving “now”.
Sleepless nights got old really fast, but for every sleepless night, I had more precious hours with that child. For every booboo I kissed or tear I wiped, I taught them that I would always be there for them. Loading four small bodies into the car seats of a minivan wasn’t my favorite, but there are days I would give anything to have them behind me again, screeching songs and narrating their entire trains of thought to me. I groaned and fretted over our crunchy, muddy, juice-stained carpet, wishing for the day that my carpet was spotless. Today, my carpet is clean, but my kids are mostly grown and often absent.
Those by-gone days? Those days were “right now” when they happened. When they existed they were the present. I wanted them to hurry and be done, but they were right now, and now they’re gone and I miss them. It’s a trade I’m not sure I’m happy with.
I am getting better, day by day, and year by year, at least in the sense that I now recognize the pattern we all have of wishing life away and am trying to gently, lovingly remind myself to appreciate right now—not just for the good, but for the bad that comes along with it. Because without the bad, can we ever really know how great the good is?
I don’t want to spend another second waiting for the next moment. I want to be content with it all. So when I am happy, or tired and bored; when I have great hair, or see wrinkles in the mirror; when work is busy, or when it’s too slow; when my house is too loud, or when it’s too quiet; when I feel amazing, and even when my bones ache—I plan to love it.
Because this is my beautiful life. This is my dream come true. Every single right now.
And I don’t want to lose one second of it, wishing for something else.
Author: Amy Bradley
Editor: Erin Lawson