Remember that Time When ...

By Paul Johnson, LMFT, LPC, NCC.  Originally printed in 280 Living, Birmingham, AL, September 2011)

Last month, on the morning of August 11, 2010, my wife turned to me and said, “I’m not ready for this.” I looked at her, and with every bit of insensitivity I could muster, said, “Why? We did this last year.”

It was the first day of our eldest son’s foray into first grade, at a public elementary school. Last year, at this time, it was his first day of kindergarten, at a public elementary school. Same school. Same routine. Just about the same everything. Except for new shoes.

I, of course, got a shoulder smack for being a smart-alec. And then she said, “No, we didn’t.” And, of course, she was right. Because last year, on our eldest son’s first day of public-all-day-real-school (though when I was a kid, kindergarten was not real school, yet. Now it is—sheesh), we were in the hospital, giving birth to our third son, so we kind of missed all of the sentimental “there he goes” stuff. This year, we got to watch it really happen.

So we did.

And then turned and went inside.

I remarked, “Yeah, I remember last year, where we were, what we were doing. Sigh. That was cool and anxious on so many levels. One going off, another coming in, the middle caught in the middle. Sigh. Whew.”

Life changed that day. And that was just a year ago.

In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the LORD our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (Deuteronomy 6:20-21).

The other week, my eldest son asked me where he was when his mommy and daddy were married. He asked, “Was I born yet?” I thought, ‘Hmmm, is it time for this talk, or can I put this off a little longer?’ I told him he was not born yet and was not in “mommy’s tummy” yet, but was in that place where God puts the hopes and dreams of all mommy’s and daddy’s, the someday place. He then asked, “Daddy, when you married Mommy, did you kiss her?” I said “Yes, yes I did.” He said he liked it when we did that. I smiled, and tussled his hair.

I later told my wife about our brief episode. A wedding picture sits on our dresser. She picked it up, smiled, put it down, turned to me and said, “That was a good day.” And then kissed me. I said I liked it when she did that. She said, “What? Me kissing you? Or you marrying me?” I replied, “Both.” And then I hugged her the way I did after I was told that day that I had permission to kiss my bride.

Life changed that day. That was 2003.

The man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the house of Israel everything you see” (Ezekiel 40:4).

I stood outside the Lifeway Publishing office building in Nashville looking up at the sky, and then got into my car to drive to my new life in Birmingham. I had recently relocated from Nashville to Birmingham, life changing rather abruptly and unexpectedly. I had been there to talk about a potential publishing project, but life was changing, for all of us. Before the meeting, I spoke briefly with a receptionist about the news she was hearing on the radio. I remember thinking, “it is absurd how some people don’t pay attention to the degree that something like that can accidentally happen.” I turned on the radio as I pulled away from the offices, and it was being reported that it wasn’t an accident. It was intentional. Someone, or someones, had purposefully flown airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City.

The publishing project never happened. Other things took precedent.

Life for all of us changed that day. And that was 2001.

On that day tell your son, “I do this because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8)

Any time anyone ever begins a sentence with, “Remember the time when…,” stop what you are doing, pick up your cup of coffee, and take the journey with them. Life happens and changes in moments and in seasons — how they affect us depends on how we process and remember those moments and seasons. Telling the stories is important, and we should be encouraged to do so at every turn.

As we pause this month on one of the rare generational “remember-when” moments (much like the day of the shooting of JFK or the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger), reflect on the past decade. Then look at the past five years, then on the past one. That’s it. Just remember. Then tell someone what you remember. Then speak of perhaps what you have noticed since then. And what you have learned.

On that day, tell

If in the telling, some further processing is needed, please consider LifePractical Counseling for your counseling or consultant needs. You may reach us at 205-807-6645, or send an email via this website. Paul Johnson is a professionally licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor in the state of Alabama.