Snapshots and Summer

This weekend marked the official start of summer. While many of us have been anxiously awaiting summer “break,” it is an odd feeling now that it is here. I am thankful that I was able to continue teaching remotely during the COVID-19 school closure both for my sanity and so I could continue to pay my bills. This said, I am also ready for a break. The past three months have been some of the most emotionally and mentally exhausting in my teaching career. There were and still are so many unknowns about what the future will hold.

Yet, we keep moving forward

for our seniors whose final weeks of high school were historically different than what the rest of us experienced as seniors.

for our retiring teachers whose final class period didn’t have a class or a time period.

for our students whose only safe space is in our schools.

for our colleagues whose humor and companionship we took for granted before the closure.

for our kids, both ours and the ones on the other side of the computer.

So much has changed about what we consider to be best practice in education. Most of what we have learned during the closure is connected to other elements in education that need to change. It is true that we don’t know what we don’t know. It is also true that we can not unlearn what we now know. These lessons resonate in all elements of my life as I search for grace.

One of my closest teaching friends made the comment that “sometimes when the world is crumbling around you, it is time to take inventory of what is worth repairing and what needs to be discarded.” When I consider the phrase “back to school,” I truly hope whenever we are able to go back to school, that we seize the moment to keep moving forward taking only the best crumbles with us. This time of our lives becoming the snapshot documenting how we learned the lessons we learned to move forward.

My life could be recorded by a series of snapshots. I think about each of the major moments in my life and more often than not, I have a visual record from the day. A snapshot to refresh my memory when the pages of my brain begin to fade. Looking through old photos at my Aunt Lee Ann’s house, my sister Emily found this gem from the early days of Hilderman Gardens.

This weekend, two random women walked by my parents living room window inquiring if we were open. I politely explained that we were no longer operating a gardening & floral business and pointed them the direction of another greenhouse. It gave us a reason to reminisce about the way things were and the fun we had working together as a family. Emily and I both love to garden, a lesson we learned and memories we will forever hold. I love that now Papa and Grandma are sharing their joy for gardening with Emma (side note, one does not need a helmet for gardening – we were getting ready for a bike ride).

Emily celebrated her 40th birthday with Zoom happy hours, texts, & emails. Originally, we had planned to go to Spain this summer. Then, we changed our mind and planned for a week in Hawaii. Next, it was her favorite girls getaway in Oregon. Finally, it was a one-way ticket to Seattle and then a road trip home. On the 902 mile drive from the SeaTac Airport to my driveway, we had sunsets and views we wanted to capture. As best we tried, the photo was never quite the same as the shared moment together. Sometimes the sweetest memories can not be recorded. They are what Brene Brown calls the “ordinary moments.”

I wanted to share a couple of photo collages for Father’s Day of Courtney. I made one of him and Emma. They have a special father/daughter friendship. They fish, bike, and explore together. I sorted through photos from the past three years and struggled to limit my selection to 9. Each photo capturing a moment of our lives together. The collage made me joyful and eager to see what their future holds.

As I sorted through photos on my phone to make a similar collage of Courtney and Josh, I realized I continue to use the same photos over and over. Then, I internalized- my snapshots of my son are limited. It made me want to print them all, just so I could hold them, suddenly afraid that like him one day they would be gone. In that moment, I had to pause, reflect, and search for grace in my grief. I found strength remembering the “ordinary moments”: the weight of his body curled up against my chest as we rocked, the way our dog Hoyt licked the top of his head when he was in his bouncer, the silent moments when the world slowed down and we focused only on each other. Now, years after his death, these ordinary moments are what I hold onto. The snapshots are my evidence, but the moments in between these moments are what matter to me most.

I have three necklaces hanging on my vanity. Each, like a photo, captures a moment of time and purpose in my life. They are keepsakes marking the journey I am on and the distance I have traveled. The diamond necklace Courtney gave me on our one year dating anniversary. The three stones representing our past, our present and our future together. The heart footprint necklace my aunt and uncle had made when Josh was diagnosed. It is crafted off of Josh’s birth certificate footprint. The name necklace was given to me by a baby loss momma at Emma’s welcome to Montana party. She understands that moving forward can also mean holding onto the sweetest crumbles from our past.

On Tuesday, Courtney and I celebrated our thirteenth wedding anniversary. We bought a box of cookies from Crumbl Cookies. Later, we sat together on our couch eating cookies and flipping through the pages of our wedding album. Each page reminded us how encompassing our community of support was and still is. As I compared our selfie from our anniversary to a selfie from our honeymoon, I know together we will continue to pick up the crumbles and move forward

for Josh

for Emma

for us.

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