I’m sure you’ve heard it, or read it or thought it a hundred times already this year, but here it is again: Time really is flying by. I remember ushering in the year 2000–a young 20-something, dewy new mama–thinking, “Gosh, imagine how old I’ll be twenty years from now!”
Ehem. Yes…well, anyway.
It is a strange thing, though, this changing over to the 2020’s. It feels significant in a way moving into the the 2010s didn’t. In 2010 the millennium was still fresh and young–like a child going from age nine to age ten. Even entering the teens I had a grasp of the newness of the age. But moving into the ’20s? Now we’re adulting. Now we’re aging. Walking through doors that will shut behind us, never to open again. And we have no other option than to keep journeying further and further away from our beginnings. Never mind this happens with the turning of every year. For whatever reason, 2020 has my special attention.
Last month while scouring my 2019 photos to include in the annual Christmas card I don’t send annually, I knew of only one photo I definitely wanted to include. I also knew it might seem an odd choice to those friends and family who’d be receiving the card. Why? Well, it’s a photo of my children’s backside, and not their faces.
The photo is from our last night in Japan. We were in Tokyo. We had just finished dinner and a final walk along Tokyo Bay where we all dipped our fingers and toes into into the Pacific Ocean, and then made one last attempt with our phones and shared reminiscing to absorb into ourselves this strange and beautiful otherworld. We were walking back to our hotel; my husband and I were lagging behind. We were half way across a skywalk when I snapped the photo. My kids were walking in a pack staggered roughly by age. Each one’s posture and gait revealed particularities of personalities only I would recognize. And yet, their collective posture told of something, too. It was a silent witness, telling a story them belonging to one another.
Belonging to another always involves a story.
It’s a funny thing. I never thought of belonging in this way–as a story–until I was typing the sentence. I had to pause and consider the statement. Is this true?
Yes. I think it is.
Belonging doesn’t just happen. It’s a journey. As many literary masters have recognized (I have no idea who the first was to say it), every story is really only one story–the Hero’s Journey. And every journey ends in greater belonging–whether it’s to oneself, or another person, or group of people, or the land, or God, or whatever it is they need, ultimately, to belong to for greater wholeness.
If it weren’t for adoption, I might not have ever understood belonging as a story. But, of course it is. Even when we have children through birth, there is still a journey into belonging together as a family. It’s this way with any kind of belonging. Belonging doesn’t just happen. On some level it does–the formal, legal, but more or less superficial level. But true belonging? That requires a journey. A story.
Maybe this is why I love the photo so much. I thought I loved it because of the way it captured so perfectly this stage in our family’s life: all my children nearly grown and walking away. And it does. You’d think I would hate this. I do. Sorta. But, this is the inevitable. And while I’ve spent plenty of time mourning my children’s growing up and moving on (even as recently as last week), I’m more concerned that as they walk away into their new futures, they know deep within themselves the story of their belonging.
More than this, I want them to treasure their belonging story. Embrace it. All of it. Even those very difficult parts. Especially these.
By the looks of the photo, I think–just maybe–they do; or at least they are well on their way…. As am I.