On Saturday mornings, I sort through the pile of papers that made their way home from elementary school in the backpacks of my two sons. The pile is always gigantic; it makes the tree-hugger in me twitch every day, every week. But how do you learn to write your letters without writing them? Once you learn to write them, how do you get better at handwriting without actually writing? And so the pile of papers with their handiwork sits on the breakfast bar every weekend, awaiting a thorough sort and toss. I’ve usually already made note of official notes and newsletters from teachers and principals and filed them accordingly.
But this sorting of the work of each of these boys always pulls at my heartstrings.
I’m not overly sentimental. I don’t save ticket stubs from dates to movies, concerts, sporting events, or plays. I think the artwork the kids bring home is really great, and I often take a picture of it—and toss it. I save a few pieces of great artwork—the one eyed spider, the Mother’s Day handprints, the pumpkin with nothing quite where it’s supposed to go—but I throw away the rest.
I struggle with journals, either individual pages or full notebooks. Journals are the best. I love seeing what the boys come up with as an important story to tell. One recently wrote about the race they ran together. One recently wrote that firefighters are “speshul” because they save people. I love seeing their world through their pencils and crayons.
And so today I came to a page with a drawing. It showed a very large building of some sort with a window sitting high atop the structure. In the window was a smiling person. I simply smiled at the drawing, because I like seeing how their drawing skills progress over time.
Then I noticed an erased word and arrow.
I looked closer.
It read “heaven” with an arrow pointing upward.
I called LittleBrother into the room.
“Hey Booey, what’s this word say?”
“Oh. So who is the person in the window?”
“It’s Big Mamaw.”
And then big, fat tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. I put the paper down and rushed to his side, pulling him close for a big hug. He explained how much he missed her in between little hiccup sobs. I told him it was okay to miss her, that I missed her too; I told him it was okay to cry.
After we dried up his tears together, he went back to play with his brother and I retreated to my office to cry tears of my own. It’s been a very difficult year. My other grandma, my maternal grandmother, just entered hospice yesterday. We don’t know how much time she has left. My mom drove her mother’s mother—yes, my great-grandma—to visit her own daughter in hospice today. Thinking of all of the loss we’ve endured, of all the going and coming and living and dying and breathing and quitting and hurting and rejoicing still left to be done this year, I just feel a bit discouraged. A bit empty. A lot fearful. So very tired.
I filed the drawing in the “keep” folder. For as much as I want to forget the hurt and pain of this year, I want to remember a little boy who felt safe enough with his feelings to draw them, erase them, and still tell his mom and cry into her arms.