I found our digital photo frame the other day. It had not yet been unpacked from our move and was tucked away at the back of a cupboard. I found it because I was tidying EVERYTHING, because I usually have a frenzied outburst of order and cleaning one week before school ends. I have to, because ten million books come home, and there’s nowhere to put them. (We have to keep them in case we ever have to read about Mapungubwe’s gold rhino again.) And Joshua was also cleaning out his things, so I was motivated. He was having grieving ceremonies over his Lego creations from a decade ago, which he’s been storing in his cupboards, and so he was releasing them to the inevitable destruction of the two youngest siblings.
The photo frame. Not, in essence, ours, but a leave-behind of our American friends who had lived in Zim for 2 years, embraced the minimalistic lifestyle a little too enthusiastically, that when they left, they left everything they ever owned behind. Photo frame included. A LOT of these American left-behinds have made it with us to Cape Town. I’m not a hoarder, unless it’s American, apparently. I just love the stuff, I’m weird and crazy. I have brought with me a candlestick (which American friend told me only cost a few bucks, candle included) and matching jug thing (but left behind good pots and pans);
an entire set of Christmas angels, which are just beeyooootiful (and left behind pictures and home decor which don’t only come out at Christmas); and two enormous cooler boxes which I thought were irreplacable (and left behind a now-much-needed sewing machine). See? Weird and crazy, I tell you. If we ever get a Walmart here, we’re in big trouble. Well, Heath is in trouble, I’ll just be happy. And materialistic.
The photo frame, geez, get to it already. For it to work, it requires a sifting through the picture files on my computer, to select the ones to display. Note to mothers all over the world: save your photo files like this,
otherwise a great deal of your time before special occasions (where you need to find photos STAT) is spent mindlessly going through pictures called IMG00237, and there could be nothing more painful than that. And home movies too:
Four kids can sure stack up those folders. Year first, then month, then day- and a description. Side note: the clip called Boys and Noodles refers to swimming pool noodles. Aren’t you glad I cleared that up?
So the photos transported me back to when the brutes were tiny, and we had beach holidays in South Africa, after long and stressful road trips over the border. Our days were filled with sun and sand, except for rainy days, which we spent in the mall binge-buying everything we’d ever need for the next twelve months, because we couldn’t get it in Zim. Our overloaded car and trailer were always prayed over vehemently on that drive home! (Lord, please blind the customs officials to the bulging lid of the trailer; please don’t let them unpack it…) On the beach days, Heath and I seldom swam together in the sea, because there was no-one to watch the kids, and invariably there was a toddler of ours sleeping in a tent, or an infant needing feeding. Many of those holidays are remembered with the phrase, “Who was I pregnant with that time?” But now, as I sifted through all the pictures, it was all crystal clear. Every memory, every baby, every road trip moment- which encompassed sticky food all over the carseat, and toxic nappy changes on the back seat, which would cause great dramas of asphyxiation from other family members in the car.
Joshua turned 19 this week, and he planned his own birthday dinner outing with friends. He didn’t need balloons, or cake, and his girlfriend’s family took him out for breakfast. And he leaves for a week away with some mates to Mossel Bay on the 13th December, then catches a bus to the Eastern Cape, where we will be for 11 days. I don’t begrudge this season of change at all, it is actually strangely exciting and thrilling- because I know it must be for him. Some days, I find myself really weepy and emotional, and I know that the weight of release is gradually being poured out.
So this December is our first beach holiday in 8 years. And that’s not because we changed venues to go skiing in Aspen. Four expensive children, running restaurants, surviving Zimbabwe and emigration take up bucks and time, y’know. I know we live by the beach now, but that doesn’t count if you can’t swim without losing all nerve sensation in your limbs. My brother and his family are coming with my parents from the U.S. for a family reunion of sorts (excluding my eldest brother in Ireland). Heath and I have not seen my folks since our brief visit to them during a ministry trip to the US in 2007. They left Zim in 2005 after a very traumatic, violent and life-altering break-in at their home. They never returned to their home, and sold up and left for the States 3 months after, to settle in the same state as my brother. So it is quite surreal to think about seeing them again, and for the boys to see them- in Ethan’s case, actually meet them for the first time!
Joshua and I were sitting in the car last week waiting for Ethan to finish his Hiphop dance lesson, and Joshua showed me videos on his phone that he’d secretly taken of Aiden and Ethan dancing to one of their favourite songs. They are both in their undies, the singing is unholy, and the whole routine, punctuated with bounces off the couch cushions when the beat drops, had me in tears of laughter. Take pictures of their crazy moments secretly, of babies sleeping in tents, of boys and noodles, of the sound effect they make when playing with toy dinosaurs, and when they slurp their spaghetti. It’s not just about school plays (which we always fast forward by the way, yawn) or the birthday parties. It’s the ones that capture family identity. This is one of my favourite principles:
Peer pressure is only as strong as family identity is weak.
Strong memories make for strong family identity- those nicknames you forgot about when they were 2, and certain moments which become lifelong family inside-jokes. Going through all the pictures, seeing those videos on Joshua’s phone, and preparing for Joshua’s next season of life, have all made me realise how important it to take pictures and videos of everyday things. I’m looking forward to long days of nothingness that these holidays promise. Kids having to make do without screens, (except sunscreen, ha ha) and that boredom eventually leads to the contentment of just being together. We usually watch some family videos around New Year’s Day, but Aiden’s birthdate is 01-01-01 and he’s turning 16. Gulp. Excuse me whilst I go and film him secretly.
May the lessons learned in the quiet or the chaos lead you closer to Him.
Lots of love,