See, we went on vacation every year, even to the other grandparents’ home. We saw friends. We saw cousins. Always for a few days at a time, just the way we visited Escobita. But I barely remember the outline of those homes, so don’t expect a meticulous drawing of anything I saw there.
But Escobita? It left me with smells and feelings and details. And one beautiful memory that encapsulates everything I miss about that house.
I remember him laughing. Always laughing. A World War II survivor and retired Army major, he was a tough dad to my dad. But to his grandchildren, he was one adoring, giant teddy bear. And every morning that I woke up in that house, I ran into the room where he and my grandmother slept, jumped up onto their bed and was crushed in the tight, laughing embrace of my grandpa. The windows behind him were open to a welcoming desert sunrise, and I felt loved.
“I know why you remember your grandpa that way,” my mom told me. “You and your baby sister lived there for nearly a year while I was sick.” It was news to me.
I was three years old.
I can’t imagine how hard that must have been on my folks. Suddenly, like an amnesia patient with instant recollection, that explanation connected the dots on a whole lot of other memories, including a few that weren’t so wonderful.
Like the one where I stood sobbing in someone’s doorway, begging them to let me run to my crying mother. Misdiagnosed with tuberculosis, she didn’t dare come near us as she said good-bye. But how do you explain something like that to a toddler? And how did grandparents in another state suddenly take the place of an absent mom and dad, and still make me feel safe and loved? Now I know why I knew their church friends so well. Why I know Grandpa ate bacon and home grown grapefruit every morning for breakfast. And why the memories never included my parents.
Finally, I understood the bond I had with my Grandma and Grandpa. And perhaps why I struggle with some insecurities that couldn’t be avoided. It’s as though wandering through those rooms in my dreams finally led me to a place of understanding. And acceptance. And closure.
At the end of the love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13, after it explains what love really looks like, it says we used to think like children, but now we have put away childish things. It says my childish “feeling and thought have no further significance for me.” (in J.B.Phillips translation)
Maybe those childish things have “no further significance for me” because I couldn’t understand their importance without God’s help. Nothing is wasted with God. Now I wonder if reading that verse out of context made me forget to connect the dots to the famous verse which follows:
“At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me!” (v. 12)
In my life, the time came when I finally saw puzzle pieces fall into place—at least with this one fraction of a memory. I believe God speaks to us in our memories and often in our dreams. He knows me fully—better than I know myself—and He can clear up my puzzling reflections in an instant.
What can I take away from this new reflection? Children matter to God. Childhood matters to Him. And He is in the business of healing broken places in our lives because He loves us. Which can’t be said any better than the way He said it in verse 13:
“In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.”