Rachel Marie Stone and her younger son in their new home. Photo courtesy Lisa Beth Anderson/Spark + Tumble

Rachel Marie Stone and her younger son in their new home. Photo courtesy Lisa Beth Anderson/Spark + Tumble

I cried while unpacking plates yesterday.

My son, who is eight and a half, watched me put them away in the freshly cleaned cabinets of our new home; the first home we’ve owned — the first home that was not consciously and intentionally a stopping-off place between where we’d come from and where we’re going.

“Wait — the stuff in the boxes is ours?” he asked. “I thought it was just some junk left in the basement.”

These are the plates we got when we married, eleven years ago this month. Between then and now we’ve lived in eight different dwellings in four countries and four states. We have eaten off of plates in fully furnished apartments we’ve rented; off plates I grudgingly purchased for the short time we lived here or there, while our plates, the plates from Macy’s, graceful but sturdy, practical plain white porcelain, waited, packed carefully in their original boxes.

Padding those original boxes were clean cloth diapers. When I packed them away, my son still wore diapers. Now he reads Harry Potter and plays Mozart on the violin.

I cried while unpacking plates yesterday because I am a reluctant adventurer; hobbitlike in height and hair texture and love of eating; of peace and quiet, of flowers and of the comforts of home. More than almost anything, I have longed to watch the years go by from one beloved spot, not so as to avoid the inevitable changes that time brings, but rather to know that at the end of the day my family and I will eat off the same plates at the same table.

What is it about time that makes us speak in clichés even if we don’t want to? Where did the time go, we say. It seems like only yesterday. How can it really have been seven years since I’ve seen these plates; eleven years since we said ‘I do’? How could we have been so young? Look how little our niece was!

Perhaps the question beneath the clichés — at least for me — is why does the evidence of time passing grieve me? What do I weep for, exactly?

On our wedding day, eleven years ago this month, I was tempted to worry about details. What if they forgot to put out the beautiful planters of flowers? (They didn’t.) What if the service was weird? (It wasn’t.) What if the photographer was awful? (He was.)

But the dogwood trees were also at their most beautiful moment. My niece, Elli, was a perfect toddler flower girl, and she played contentedly with a long string of pearls in the front pew all through the ceremony. I can still see the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows, and the happy tears in my best friends’ eyes as I made my way to the altar.

I savored those details then, not because I was so “in the present,” as everyone seems to be saying now, but because I was consciously and carefully wrapping the memories as memories to be unpacked at some future date, in some other place. And unwrapping them, particularly when I have forgotten what it was I packed away so long ago, does occasionally call forth tears.

But it also sets a table for me, and for the ones I love — a table with cup and plate always ours, always full, always waiting, present even in the furnished rentals and the thrift store plates grudgingly purchased for the meantime, because wherever we are, however lost and rootless I feel, it is love — it is Jesus — who welcomes us home.

{This post is part of a series at Cara Strickland’s lovely blog, which you can — and should — check out here.}

3 Comments

  1. And on the same day you watched Elli in the front row, another generation watched you from the second row, the fifth row and the seventh row. Today they remember you as you remember Elli, feel a stronger sting of years passed by, unwrap the promises of longer ago to enjoy today and wait more attentively to be called Home. Welcome home.

  2. I had just found out you are back to the USA. Dave Nicolas was in our pulpit last Sunday and told us you all had returned. I bet it was fun unpacking the “stuff” you left behind. I hope all have recovered from their illnesses. Love You all, Ruth

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