Don’t go lookin’ through that old camphor box, woman
You know those old things only make you cry
When you dream upon that little bunny rug
It makes me think that life has passed you by
There are days when you wish the world would stop, woman
But then you know some wounds would never heal
But when I browse the early pages of the children
It’s then I know exactly how you feel
Thus begins one of my favourite songs of all time. John Williamson’s ‘Cootamundra Wattle’ talks about life through the eyes of a father, and his understanding of his world. Central to this understanding are the events that shaped it for him, and the memories he carries with him of those events.
What jogs those memories for him and for his wife? A blanket, some photos, and the smell of flowers from his childhood. So it is that we begin to explore the wonder of memories, how our brain records them and how we recall them.
Memories, both good and bad, are brought forth when we encounter something through our senses that was connected with that moment in time.
Often it is smell… for example I know the scent of my grandparent’s home and should I encounter that smell somewhere else, I think of them and of special moments that we have had together (I can best describe the scent as a combination of sunlight soap flakes and tea leaves with an undertone of red dirt, in case you were wondering).
The sense we most think of is our sight, by which I mean photos and videos that we seem to record in bulk these days thanks to the wonders of digital recording.
This photo is of my eldest son, Ezekiel, about three years ago. It is precious to me not because of the pixels that it uses or the colours, or some other technical aspect, but because it brings back memories of that time in his life. It reminds me of who he is, and how precious he is to me. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make me tear up a little. Imagine what looking at this image might be like for me in 5 years (when he becomes a teenager), or 15 years (when he’s left home), or if tragedy should strike and we lose him… and so we begin to unpack the idea of moments that matter. Moments through which we seek meaning and connection.
There are moments in each of our lives that help to shape us, and these moments don’t just interact with us in isolation. No, each is a thread that builds upon the tapestry that is the sum of our existence in this world. Each moment, whether good or bad, helps to shape our lives and define who we are in a very real sense.
Do moments that matter just happen? Well, yes and no.
Yes, they just happen, in that you can’t plan for them in most cases.
- The first time your child called you “Dadda”.
- The night when you decided that this woman was ‘the one’
- The death of a loved one
No, in that they can only happen when we give them the space in our lives to occur
- You knew when he first called you “Dadda” because you were there when he did
- You knew she was the one because you had made the choice to value her and give her your time and your affections
- You knew they were a loved one because you took the time to know and love them
Life occurs not in the middle of everything, but in the margins. In the space where there is space to simply… be. It takes work and time, and it takes openness to recognise and embrace it.
This Christmas, I’m working hard to create the space in my life for moments that matter. There are a lot of commitments pulling me in this direction and that, but I know that there are times when I will ignore the phone, close the door, pull a child into my lap and say “tell me about your day”. I will listen to them as they try to create coherent sentences and share about their lives in minute detail, and I will open myself up to the moment… the feel of small arms wrapped around me, the scent of freshly washed child, the sound of their voices and the little yawns and sighs they make as they settle down.
The truth is, that it is moments like this that matter, and against such moments the relentless march of time beats in vain. This moment I will steal with my children, and it will be forever a part of the tapestry of our lives.
For lovework this week, I want to ask you to look at what margin there is in your life, and put aside as much of it as you can to spend with those who matter most to you. Whether it’s an hour on a Sunday afternoon, or an early evening escape from work, we all need margin in our lives so that we can create space for moments that matter.
Yours for creating precious memories,
Ben is a father of four and a devoted husband who hails from Armidale in rural NSW. He is currently studying ministry and is a keen advocate for men’s issues at a local, national, and international level.