BACKWARD, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,
Make me a child again just for to-night!
I read this poem years ago, sitting in the chair at my grandmother's house. (Read the whole poem HERE.) I was young enough then that I could read and understand the poem, but not truly grasp the sentiment. Now, though, I understand. My thoughts turn to my grandmother and my mother-in-law whenever I hear the opening line. They've both been gone for nearly three years, and they'd both be celebrating birthdays this week. Now I know what it is to long for the honest, simple presence of these two women in my life.
My grandmother's hand in my childhood was my touchstone of stability and order, but it was also the hand that led me into new places, new experiences, and new arenas of thought.
My mother-in-law is the image I hold as the mother I want to be. She had a way of shepherding her children with a loving touch, tempering the passions of those around her, and inspiring the best in all of us. She was quiet and simple, instinctively patient, and somehow always held things together.
At the end of my days, I am tired. I'm aware of all that I have left undone, time I might have spent better, words I wish I'd never said, ways that I've not lived up to my own expectations or to the examples set by these women I so long to emulate. I want to hear them reassure me that morning will come with new grace, and that whatever my frustration, time and love will be enough to bring it into perspective. I want to feel a comforting hand stroking my hair, hear a gentle voice bearing wisdom born of faith and experience, smell the familiar smells of each of their embraces as I bury my face and let the rest of the world slip from my awareness.
And just so, I draw my children to me. I embrace them, kiss their foreheads, stroke their hair away from their eyes, and pray that someday they will take comfort in those simple memories, just as I will tonight when I close my eyes and let my memories rock me to sleep.