I went for a run on a freezing day and I was surrounded by ghosts. Surprisingly, I can run longer when the air is cold and the sun is bright, and it was a day just like that, so I took myself down the road past my kids’ old elementary school. The school is closed now, boarded up since a roof collapse a couple of winters ago, but the memories flooded in. There was my old parking spot, where I’d read and wait for the kids to come out, there was the place the old playground stood, there was the hill they climbed single-file when they went for walks with their class. There was the patch of grass where I saw the school principal planting tulip bulbs with a brownie troop one fall afternoon. I peered in the windows and saw a stuffed snowman still on the secretary’s desk. There were still paper cut-out snowflakes on the windows that used to house my kids’ room assignments for the year. We Moms would go every August with notebooks to write down the names of just who would be in our kids’ classes. I remember it all. It’s like the place was frozen in time, but also long gone. Like the memories we hold, like the childhoods that are all but over.
Things change, and sometimes they collapse, and new things come, like the school I hope our town will build for the kiddos, but this takes time. And as time goes, we change and grow, too. I loved the years my kids attended this elementary school. Life was so simple then, and busy, and good. And it was hard in the ways it could be then. We worked on getting much-needed school funding, we said goodbye to amazing teachers, we fussed over dioramas and soccer schedules and play-dates.
The questions are harder now, but also good. Sometimes I feel like melting and sometimes I stay frozen to my place in time. But there’s always the promise of something new on its way, like those tulips that still grow in front of a shuttered school. Or the kids that left this school years ago and are now encountering a wider world. They grow because someone took the time to plant them, or plant in them, and though no one can say what color or shape their lives will take when they finally bloom, I have to believe it will be all good in the end.
There is so much love.
As I ran home past the soccer fields and over the train tracks, I remembered how the kids used to stop mid-practice and wave at a train as it went past. Dozens of cleated, shin-guarded kids all in their team colors just stood frozen while they smiled and cheered for a train whistle, over and over again. It was amazing, and it always made the parents laugh, along with most of the coaches. In that brief game delay, they were giving us a picture. Those kids were marking the passing of something with abandon and utter joy, and then they went back to the game. How could I do any less?
This song came through my earbuds loud and clear as I walked the rest of the way home. It’s a song of gratitude, trust, and peace, and I hope it will give you encouragement to get back to whatever game you’re in today. Play well.