Dear Atticus, on nostalgia

Dear Atticus,

I personally thought the newborn stage was for the birds. I can look back now and see why people treasure it: you were so tiny and needed so much help, and things are already so different. You have ideas about how things should be, and you make yourself known. Your dad and I often look at pictures from January and are amazed at how quickly things have changed.


Nothing lasts forever, Atticus. Things change whether we want them to or not. It is easy to live our lives in the wanting and waiting. It is more challenging to be present in the present, because we are nostalgic for the past or because we are longing for the future. It is a delight to watch you grow so fast. But I hope to teach you to stop and enjoy what is happening now.

Not yet, though. I don’t have to teach you that yet. Because you teach me about it every day: when your smile erupts into giggles over the silliest thing, when you are so proud of yourself for mastering a new skill, when you point and look with wonder at a light fixture or a fan. Even as you strive to learn the next thing, you are present in the process. I think this is part of what Jesus meant when he said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to little children.

I know that will change all too quickly as well. I remember wanting to be like the big kids, counting the days until summer vacation, desperately needing my driver’s license, waiting to escape to college. In Looking for Alaska by John Green, one character says that imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia, and accuses another of using the future to escape the present. I know exactly what they are talking about.

Don’t be nostalgic for the past, Atticus. We want to make wonderful memories with you, and we hope you treasure them. But don’t imagine that the past was perfect or better in some way, simply for being in the past. And don’t wish yourself too far into the future, escaping what is in favor of what you hope will come to pass. I don’t know if it’s possible to be nostalgic for the present, but cherishing your life’s moments as they are happening sounds like a worthy goal to me, and that’s what I hope for you.

I tell you these things not because I think you will be able to escape these traps that the rest of us have fallen into, but because I want you to know that there was a time that you lived so free and unafraid that you inspired me to live in the present, too.


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