BY MARY ELLEN CARLSON, HERITAGE HOUSE CHILDCARE & LEARNING CENTER
Memories flooded back to me as I started putting away the accumulation of pictures and “stuff” from the previous year. I always like to do an attic cleanup/out during the long cold winter months. February seems to be that time of year when it “just works” for me.
Early in our marriage, my husband Jeff’s job transferred us to Minneapolis, MN for a few years to live. It was a tremendous change when we left all family and friends and moved a thousand miles away with two toddlers in tow. During that time I was busy raising our preschool boys and later our baby daughter.
One project that I started during that time and remains to be a project in progress is the collection of my children’s memories in the form of scrap and picture books. It was something I worked on in the evenings when the kids were all in bed and Jeff was out of town. It was so therapeutic for me to put those memories into an artifact that my children would be able to look at in years to come. As our children grew, they became interested in those treasures and even now as adults, when home visiting, they occasionally pull out a book to peruse.
I started placing pictures into my oldest son’s album of his latest plane flight. It reminded me of a cold day in March twenty years ago when he came home and sat at the dining room table after school. He looked at me and said, “Mom, we watched a movie where the space shuttle took off.” I said, “Wow, isn’t it amazing to think of all the people involved to make that enormous space ship launch without a hitch.” He pondered that for a bit and then said, “Mom, do you think I could fly that space shuttle someday?” Of course my response was, “Absolutely, let’s find what a person does to be able to fly the shuttle.”
When children are young they need to be told, “All things are possible.” I know many would debate that statement but I think that by encouraging children to find out how things happen and what the world holds for them is an important step in self-discovery. I have to admit that my husband should be accredited for that statement on many more occasions than myself. I was more reserved on imparting that speech. The nickname given to me by my children is and still remains as the “safety queen”. That pretty much tells the story! My husband is the mastermind at making the kids recognize their gifts as well as discover their limitations. This takes a lot of undivided attention when parenting during the formative years. It was such an incredible experience to watch their passions take form.
I pull down the light blue album from a shelf and open to a picture my youngest son drew when he was seven. It is a very archaic airplane with a stick figure pilot with a huge grin. At the bottom of the image are the words, “I want to be a pilot”, printed in uneven crayola-bold first grade penmanship! I couldn’t help but fast forward my thoughts to the day he came home from college and stated he was going to join the Navy to fly. As our youngest son did the necessary paper work and actions to make this happen we stood by and watched another segment of his life unfold.
I notice the kid’s baby books that are amongst the photo albums, artwork and scrapbooks. I open up the book with the charming and courageous baby girl, our daughter, as the star. I thumb through the pages pausing and remembering how fast this little girl turned into the women she is today. I read through a few of the little stories she dictated to a teacher in kindergarten with her tender first sentences. Underneath the book lies one of the college newspapers she wrote for in her smooth eloquent expression. I can’t help but reflect on the paralleling significance of how her life and written word both unfolded in those twenty-some years.
It’s a very fine line we walk as parents and guardians for our children. Our children count on us to be there to support them when needed but rely on us also to have the stoutheartedness to give them wings to fly.
As I close the door to the storage room with the box of papers and pictures empty along with the shelves again cleaned and organized, I look forward to another winter day next year when I decide to organize the “stuff” in the attic. It starts out being an effort to straighten all that’s been thrown in there as a result of a year of living. Fortunately it ends up being a pleasurable time to reminisce realizing with satisfaction that, at least most of the time, instead of molding I was able to let my children unfold.
“If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.” – Bruce Barton.
Mary Ellen Carlson has extensive experience in Elementary Education. Before assuming the duties as Director of Heritage House Childcare & Learning Center, she taught at Panama Central School, owned and operated her own home day care, and was the Project Coordinator of “Write Team,” a grant-funded project at the James Prendergast Library.
Mrs. Carlson earned her B.S. in Elementary Education and an M.S. in Curriculum Development/Elementary Education from SUNY Fredonia. She has also continued her education through training in sign language, child abuse prevention, and writing.