My family loves antique stores. I mean LOVES them! Our local antique store is a compilation of three large barns connected through walkways. We could spend all day wandering through the booths. To watch our family on a typical day you might mistake us for an ADHD medication advertisement. We are active, impulsive and a little unfocused. That’s just us parents!
You might think an antique store wouldn’t be a safe place for a family like ours but the experience is quite the contrary. There is something for everyone to look at. Each item is some previous owner’s small piece of history. The eclectic diversity has a calming effect on our naturally squirrelly demeanor. To make the situation even more alluring, the antique mall also houses the world’s best BBQ joint. The smell is intoxicating. We could literally live there and want for nothing. We find ourselves strolling through the stalls a few times a month.
Recently we were killing an hour meandering when we saw a lovely antique typewriter. As you may know, my husband loves to write. His eyes gleamed with joy as he clicked the ancient keys. “I have always wanted a typewriter,” he exclaimed. The kids and I gave each other sideways glances, noting that the perfect Father’s Day gift had just been discovered.
A few days later, my son and I went out to collect our gift as well as all the ingredients for our favorite veggie lasagna. We pulled into the parking lot on this sweltering June day. We quickly ducked into the building feeling the rush of cool air on our skin. We knew exactly what we wanted and forced ourselves to practice self-control as we ignored the allure of the pulled pork sandwich. We were on a mission. We found the typewriter we wanted and began to lug the enormous item to the counter. The elderly owner jumped up to help and carried it the rest of the way. As we purchased the item, he asked why we liked this one so much. My son told him, “My mom and dad are writers. We’re getting this for Father’s Day!” He beamed with pride as he gave his explanation and so did I. The man offered to carry the heavy item to the car for us and I was grateful.
The oppressive heat enclosed us as we made our way to the van. He placed the item inside, and asked, “What do you write?” I told him briefly that we write about adoption. A slow smile spread across his face, “My wife was adopted, I adopted my step daughter and now my daughter’s three children are adopted.” Suddenly, I forgot about the heat and the lasagna waiting to be made. We stood in the parking lot talking for a long time about our families. He expressed appreciation for his wife’s adoptive family. He spoke his children’s names with love. He beamed with joy as he recounted tales of his grandchildren. He reached back into his memory, plucking the most important details. This man was almost old enough to be my grandfather and I felt myself soaking in each word of wisdom. What struck me was that there was nothing unique that caused our experiences to mirror one another. I identified with his commonplace stories of parenthood.
Parents are all on the same journey. We are all trying our best. We are struggling through failures, picking ourselves up and trying again. This man recalled a conversation he had with his teenage daughter, “I know you don’t like me now and I understand that, try to remember that one day I will be your child’s grandpa.” He told me he had forgotten that conversation until a few months ago as he spent time with his little granddaughter. His daughter pulled him aside smiling and reminded him. I smiled too as I pictured the event. I didn’t realize I was so desperate for a few words of hope until he spoke them. “Parenting is hard, don’t lose hope, the story their life is telling right now isn’t the whole story. The book isn’t over yet, there’s so much more to write.” He nodded at the typewriter and wished me a good day.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that conversation this week. My child’s whole story isn’t going to be the messy room, the sassy attitude, the thumb sucking or the bedwetting. My child’s whole story isn’t written yet. There’s still so much more. I’m going to enjoy the chapter I’m in right now. All good stories have a few plot twists along the way, and I don’t want to miss even one page of this incredible story.
When you take a harder look at your family, and your life, what story are you telling? Share with us in the comment section below.