The two of you have reached the ages of four and three, which is about the age your Uncle Caleb and I were the night of the Brown’s Chapel Baptist Church Christmas program. Stick with me, girls, this is going somewhere.
Anyway, after the program was over, there was this big, cardboard box with a bunch of brown paper bags in it, and all the kids were grabbing one. I was confused and tried to get several bags, but one of the adults told me that there was only one for each child, which was disappointing. But oh, when I looked inside my little bag, what a treasure I found: in addition to an apple, an orange, and some candy, there was a big Snickers bar.
On the way home, I held onto my bag with excitement, eagerly anticipating eating that Snickers bar after we got home. Instead, the moment we walked inside, my dad took the bag, put it on top of the refrigerator, and told me it was time to go to bed. I was disappointed, but I looked forward to getting that candy bar the next day.
Girls, I don’t know what happened to that bag of candy or the Snickers bar inside. For a while, I assumed your grandpa ate it, but as I was writing this letter to you, it crossed my mind that it might have been your Uncle Lee or Aunt Lawrie who did it. Either way, the unfortunate thing is that it’s one of the few memories I have of being age three.
At this very moment, there are two red, candy-filled paper bags in the pantry, and they belong to each of you. Although you both were very excited to get them last weekend, your mom and I immediately began rationing the candy so that you didn’t eat the whole bag; and then we put it up high on a shelf in the pantry where you couldn’t reach it. Furthermore, I admit that I have, in fact, eaten some of that candy, and I have reason to believe your mother has as well.
If you’re like your dad, there’s a chance that you’re going to look back on your childhood, and one of your most significant memories will be a sad, wrinkled, red bag way up in the pantry. Should that happen, please know this: even as children, our minds have a tendency to cling to negative memories, to relive injustices, and stew on the moments when we felt our parents or siblings did us wrong. Now I admit that for a lot of people, some of that stuff is heavy, serious baggage that needs to be worked through; but even if you do have to do some processing at some point, don’t do it at the expense of the good times.
Instead, do whatever you can to let go of all the “red bags” in your childhood – hold onto the hours and hours of storybook reading, silly-song-singing, praying together, and talking around the table. Remember us driving down the road as a family and belting out “Amazing Grace” together. Relive the countless times I gave you a tight hug, made a fake tooting noise, and then blamed you for passing gas. Hold onto our little dance parties in the living room, trips with Mom to the grocery store, and swimming lessons from Dad.
What I’m saying is, be wise enough to let your parents be human, to let each other be human, and to realize that despite all of the various “red bags” of candy you’re going to lose as you grow up, in the end, God blessed you with a pretty sweet childhood.
P.S. Thanks for the Twix.