Who has not surveyed the downy head of a sleeping infant with wonder? Who has not looked in on a preoccupied toddler and given a wry smile over his focus on such occasions? How can anyone look into the earnest eyes of a child trying to explain an important point without trying to capture the memory?
“And his mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51b).
Yes, yes — the discussion must go on, but in the back of our minds is the precious love we bear for this stalwart soul who is pouring himself out without reserve. With the spare energy available to us, we sear the moment onto our mental film, trying to make it last as long as we do.
Who will remember these vignettes if the mother is not there to store them in her treasurehouse? Who bears witness to the minutiae — the eye color, the tilt of the head, the bearing, and odd twist of feet, and the moments — the tying of shoelaces, connecting with the T-ball, anger over injustice, or a grade worthy of the refrigerator? Childhood is a vast assortment of mundane details awash in love. Motherhood’s task is to file them in a reliable container shaped by affection and reinforced by hope. On occasion, one might think that the heart would burst, so laden are these moments with joy and sorrow, with desires reaching around all the possibilities for the good. We laugh with the laughter of our children, shudder when their pain is too much, and feel it in our marrow when their hopes and disappointments echo our own from decades past.
But how can we hold onto these memories in our fragile state? There are too many, the demands of life crowd and press, and the mind is fallible in its best condition. I am in awe of many women and what they can remember about their children, my children, and dates and events we’ve shared. I’m put to shame when they rattle off weights, sizes, birthday party themes, and who lost which teeth when. I’m content to remember my children’s names and present ages and, with difficulty, impress various scenes on the aging brain with hopes that they’ll last a few decades: an early morning drive to hockey practice with one son, a set of matching Easter outfits for a couple children, how the profile of one infant and father lined up on the pillow one sunny morning years back.
This beastly memory of mine has impressed on me a few lessons that I have tried to spiritualize — since all things work together unto good, and all that. The first lesson is obvious: We have only the present moment to give to God. What are we doing with this day, this hour, this minute? It’s really all that we have, especially if we keep our past sins at bay through confession. With our souls washed clean through sacramental grace, we can imbue this moment with the love it deserves — and have only love on hand from one encounter to the next.
Secondly, we can entrust the memories to Our Mother’s heart — she loves each of our children as she loved her own, and there the treasured moments are safe and secure. She can even draw her mantle over them enough to allow us to see what we do recall with her eyes and her faith. We can ask her to give them to her Son as our gift, a return for His generosity in all things and for bestowing the grace which makes such moments possible.
And this leads to a third essential point: everything in this world is passing. Like those dripping cones on a hot summer’s day, the locks of hair from a first haircut, or the brittle corsages from romantic nights passed, the tangible elements of life will vanish into eternity one day. Dust unto dust — and what will remain? Simply love. All eternity will be like the Immaculate Heart of our Lady, filled with moments transfigured, the scattered remnants of all our days’ laughter, sacrifice, and generosity.
And so I remember what I can, give it all to Mary, and trust that she will weave an eternity with the Author of every memory, the Keeper of life’s flame, and the One Who transformed every corner of the world with His love.
Mrs. Kineke is the editor of Canticle Magazine for Catholic women.