Sometimes, we recognise the big moments in our lives since the universe hangs a big neon sign over them - falling in love, baptism, weddings, finding out we're critically ill.
Other times, we don't recognise the big moments until they're long past -"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." (R. Frost)
Then, there are the little moments, the little questions that you know are big moments.
My cousin had been scanning in uncle's photos before they faded and asked if I wanted one of baby me with my parents.
I knew my answer mattered in more ways than I could understand at that moment, maybe even for months or years. And I knew the answer was yes. It had to be yes, and not just for me. Easy to say, because I really wanted that photo.
I admit to refreshing my email very regularly until it arrived two hours later - and I found it very fitting that it arrived on the birthday of Our Lady, whom I've always seen as a mother, and a day of new beginnings - as Fr Robert pointed out in his sermon.
At 16.35 my time, this arrived in my inbox:
I tried to do my usual photo reading - looking for dynamics, for clues to what was going to happen later, why things are the way they are. I think I can see a number of things in that one snapshot, but because I'm so close to it, I can't be certain.
But somehow, that matters less than the feelings that took me by surprise: that little girl that I desperately tried to forget and put behind me? When I looked at that picture, I found that I loved her fiercely; that I would do anything to keep her safe.
And the young couple? I was taken aback by the mixture of sadness and protectiveness I felt for them. I wanted to go into the photo and talk to them, to tell them that if they let go a little bit, let the little one be who she needed to be, not an extension of them, not a measure of their success or failure, they'd keep her. That she was bright enough to do well at school without them breathing down her neck and with them allowing her to do extracurricular activities. That she didn't need to be a doctor or mathematician or a scientist to be successful. That they could let her be with her friends, with others, without fearing that she loved them less.
I wanted to remind them of what Kahlil Gibran said about children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I would say to them, "She is with you, but she does not belong to you. Seek not to make her like yourself, for her soul belongs to tomorrow - be stable, be a compass - point North, but only to allow her to take her own direction from it. Above all, just *love* her."
But I can't do that, any more than I can go hug that little girl and tell her it's going to be ok.
If I could say something to them right now? I'd have to borrow words again, but this time from Don Henley:
The more I know, the less I understand
All the things I thought I knew, I'm learning again -
I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my thoughts seem to scatter
But I think its about forgiveness
Even if, even if you don't love me anymore
Yes, little one. It's going to be just fine.