Yesterday, I re-watched Steel Magnolias. I knew that it was a sad movie and that it would make me cry, and I almost opted out of dragging myself through the whole thing again. But having survived that sadness, I am glad that I did. Check out the cast: Sally Fields is probably my favorite actress, and Dolly Parton is a joy to me. The cantankerous Ouiser is a reminder of the people that I hate to love, and Olympia Dukakis was also superb. Having lived most of my life in the South, I quickly recognized the character played by Daryl Hannah–the character who routinely summarizes the mysteries of life with her simple, scriptural platitudes. And Julia Roberts played the child that God allows most of us to hold for only a short and fleeting moment of our lifetimes.
Julia Roberts died in Steel Magnolias, but most of us parents know that our children do not have to die to leave home. That is simply the design of life. It is almost a bad joke. The parent’s precious child moves on. Parents are simply loaned a set of children–for just a short period of time–and then, they quicken toward another life. They go to marry and begin their own homes or they go to begin their own careers. The bottom line is that our children leave.
Although most children keep in touch with their parents after they move away, they can never really return, and a decent parent doesn’t want them to do so. But in some nagging, longing way, we remember and we ache for the days that we wrapped our children in soft, cotton blankets and brought them home from the hospitals. We remember their first steps. We remember baby food dripping from their chins, their highchairs, and from their hands and hair. We remember bathing our babies’ silky bodies and drying them and then laying them right on top of our hearts–where we could feel them as they breathed, and we remember slipping into their rooms at night and marveling at the sweetness of simply watching them sleep.
Looking back across the span of life, we recall our children’s innocent comments–the ones that allowed us to once again see life as a child sees it. We remember the drawings and the paintings that they made as children, and we remember their going to school. From that moment on, our children began slipping away from us and into themselves. That is the way that it is supposed to be. We know that, but still we remember the fleeting moments that God loaned us our children, and we long.
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind…
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day
Is lovely yet….
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears….William Wordsworth
Thank goodness for the hours that we were parents and for the ever-renewing spring times of living and our abilities to continually find new delights in which to take joy.
©Jacki Kellum March 14, 2016