Our attic needed to be emptied for an insulation project. We brought down boxes and boxes of clothing that had once belonged to our three grown children. It all needed to be sorted for saving, discarding, or recycling—a huge, overwhelming job that I intended to get through as quickly as possible.
Touching the individual items soon slowed me down: The tiny outfits I had knitted for the children's baby dedication ceremonies. The Halloween dragon costume a church friend helped me finish in time, the October I had my appendix out. The neon orange and lime green Easter dress (with black lace trim!) that I made at my daughter's request one year... the tie-dyed T-shirts from UU camp at Ferry Beach. As I moved through the piles of clothes, I began to savor. Here in the fabrics were memories of my children's growing up years, the small events that helped to shape who they are today. Here folded in boxes were tangible reminders of my growing, too, as I learned how to parent—and then learned again and again, as each child, each age and stage, offered their unique delights and challenges. I found moments of deep joy and gratitude in the midst of a chore I had dreaded.
These artifacts from our family's earlier years and the stories behind them pointed over and over to our full-immersion participation in Unitarian Universalist faith community. When we interact with children and families in congregations, camps, and conferences, we help to grow and shape not only the children, but ourselves—their parents and caregivers—in a life-long journey of becoming. The rituals and celebrations that families share in a faith community mark the times of our lives and set them apart as cherished memories. Many of those experiences and moments leave artifacts, the sort that tend to end up in an attic: art projects, photos, hand-stitched clothing, treasures found in nature on a memorable day. Some we may discard when we no longer need them to remind us of how we are shaped by our communities. Some, we may may keep as tangible touchstones for a very long time.
What keepsakes remind you of the communities that have touched you? Are they tangible items, or perhaps stored carefully in memory and story? Take a moment to bring them out of storage, either literally or in your mind’s eye. Remember, reflect, and be grateful.
The Tapestry of Faith curriculum Families invites middle- and high-school youth to reflect on the meaning of family and use photography to explore who families are together.
The Multigenerational Ministry web pages on UUA.org offer suggestions for making worship, learning together, and congregational life more inclusive of parents and families in our congregations.