How many times have we heard it: “You can’t slow down time.”
We know it’s true. We feel it when we look at the pictures of our children a year, two years, ten years ago. We feel it when we race the clock again to do this before the holidays or that before the arbitrary but very set in stone deadline. I feel it when my newborn outgrows her newborn clothes in just four weeks. I feel time rushing by so quickly these days.
Time is a river that keeps on flowing, and the only way to slow it down is build yourself a dam, picking up the rocks in the river and collecting them into a wall so that the weight of your moments becomes a life of substance.
Each moment I feel the weight of my baby in my arms and let it really sink into my memory, that is a rock I add to my memory dam. Each time I look up from the thousand tasks and look into the gray-blue beauty of Ella’s five-year-old eyes that won’t be the same when she’s six, that’s a rock in the wall. Those moments when I squeeze that hand my husband reaches out to hold mine with every single time we ride in the car together after nine years of marriage make up a boulder. When I trace the curve of a chubby cheek on a pillow as I stop by to check on three-year-old Isaac in the middle of the night, I claim that moment from a sleep-deprived season as a gift. When I stop sighing at the laundry and start fingering the toddler t-shirts and memorizing the pattern of the favorite dress, I make my life into something tangible to my mind.
Each moment truly realized by how it looks and feels and smells and sounds becomes a rock in the dam to keep the river from rushing too quickly.
When my family goes to the mountains, there is always a creek nearby, and there is always an hour when the kids who live inside the grown ups gather rocks and build a small dam in the creek. It’s just for fun, a test of man versus nature. The kids always win, but just for a little while. Even though they’re grown men and women now and know how one rock stacks on another, the next hour or the next day, the dam is gone and the creek rushes on. The creek makes short work of all our work to slow it down, but this fact remains: we made memories in making those walls of rocks in mountain creeks. We made crazy fun memories when we built sandcastles while the tide came in and made a game of saving them from the waves as long as we possibly could. The sand, the rocks, they wash away. That doesn’t diminish the memories.
I know the dams I build will be just like that. I know that time will keep rushing on, even though I have stopped and picked up memory rocks, cradled them, and considered them and stacked them together. I know they’ll not stay there, that the weight of the minutes fully cherished won’t stop change. But when I gather my memories during my days, they become apart of something bigger. The joy and the pain and the sorrow and the giddy happiness will be there, living on in the timbre of life.
The memory of a three-year-old boy asleep in your arms as you carry him from the car will contain that feel of heavy arms and legs against your skin and warm breath on your neck. A lifetime of noticing and grabbing hold of the heft of the baby curled in your arms, and the softness of a quilt handmade from your grandmother, and the warmth of the sun that broke through the clouds at just the moment you needed it like a gift straight from God…these moments remembered and fingered make the whole of life into beauty realized. The beauty has been there and has been felt and seen. The stones have been held before they moved on down the river, and that makes all the difference.