Child’s Play

Red-Rover, Red-Rover let Julie come over! Julie lets go of my hand and rushes to the other side. Excitedly they snag her. Now she is a part of their team.

You know the game, Red Rover. It is the kid’s game where you form two opposing lines across an open field, facing one another. Everyone in each line locks arms and takes turns inviting a member of the other team to come over. And the strategy is to catch that person so they will then join your team and your line grows longer and longer while the other team’s line gets shorter and shorter until there is only one person left on that team. Game over.

I’ve been playing my own little game of Red Rover for years now. Only my team consists of all women… women with no children. The other team is a far, far larger team consisting entirely of mommies. Several of the members of my team are single and that’s the only reason they are still on the team. But then there are other players who, like me, have tried to have children. Prayed and begged and pleaded to have children. Some of us have even sought radical medical assistance to have children. Yet we still stand on THIS side of the field.

Over the years my line has gotten dramatically shorter. One by one I have watched as team members get called to the opposite side. Last year I lost another member and the line became shorter again. The really painful part about losing Julie to the other team was that she was a lot like me. She had been trying for years and seeking medical assistance. She too was familiar with the unique combination of hope and heartbreak that repeats over and over in carefully measured 28-day cycles. Because of our shared suffering, Julie was a little bit more valuable to the team as far as I was concerned.

“Red-Rover, Red-Rover let Julie come over!” They chanted. I guess it is her turn. She’s been chosen. Her hand slips from my grasp and I can do nothing but watch the back of her as she races toward the other side with total abandon. They snatch her up in their network of tightly-linked arms, thrilled to have gotten another member. She is welcomed onto the team.

My arm hangs limp at my side, my palm empty until I find another hand to hold. I see her across the width of the field… which oddly becomes wider with each passing year. She has locked arms with them now, and when our eyes meet… she is beaming. I am happy for her, but I will miss my teammate.

I slide over to compensate for the gap that her absence has created and I reluctantly take the hand of the woman now beside me. My line becomes one more person shorter.

Waters of Change

A young mother in faded rolled-up jeans, is resting on a flat, wet rock. Feet buried in the depths of the cool brook, the summer sun dances on her golden hair as water rushes swiftly by. Two small girls with pudgy bare feet and equally golden hair cautiously wade in the waters around her making their way to her out-stretched hand. She is holding something small in the center of her palm and her daughters inch closer and closer to inspect the curious find.

It is a priceless moment that my father captured on film. A rare opportunity to freeze time. The young mother is my mother and the girls, my sister and me, no doubt on a mid-summer family adventure. I can’t recall it specifically, and yet I swear I can hear the water gurgling around me and feel the chill of it lapping at my ankles. The rocks beneath my tiny toes are moss-covered and smooth… and I haven’t a care in the world.

If I had to guess, I’d say the year was probably 1977 and my mom was younger than I am now. Every time I stop and take time to look closely at the photo, I marvel at my mother’s youth and beauty. And I gaze in awe at the two innocent and precious little girls, sheltered from pain, suffering, disappointment, heartbreak and the weight of responsibility. All of those things are out there waiting in the not-so-distant future. Looking back now, knowing what I know, I might have frozen time right then and there.

But the pages on the calendar fly as the years pass by and time has its not-so-friendly-way with us. Experiences etch their marks—forever transforming us into the people we are becoming. Nothing stays the same, its true. But if we look closely through the veil of time—we might still recognize the remnants of what once was. The goodness and the innocence, the curiosity and pure unbridled passion for all things fun! Today I occasionally catch glimpses of the barefoot girls with the golden hair… knee-deep in what I now know to be the rushing waters of change. And although our outward images are constantly being altered by the passage of time—like the rocks beneath a rapid, endless current—I am grateful for all we have managed to hold onto despite the years. Easy smiles and hearty laughs, curious spirits… and hope in tomorrow.