Discovering What Really Matters

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What childhood memories will our children have when they are adults? It's not always the big things, but the little things, that matter.
Sidewalk chalk flower and ladybug by my oldest daughter.
Sidewalk chalk flower and ladybug by my oldest daughter.

Out of pure curiosity, I decided to see if I could find some of the houses I’d lived in as a child, specifically in Alabama and Illinois. Using Google maps, I wanted to see if there was a street view of the house. I found both houses, but only the Illinois house had a street level view.

It’s been nearly thirty years since living in Illinois, and just over twenty since Alabama, so I expected the more recent maps on Google to show changes in the neighborhoods. As I looked at the two, memories raced through my mind, but mostly memories from Illinois.

Unlike my wife, who was raised in two houses in the same town, my father was active duty in the Air Force until my senior year of high school, so I spent my entire childhood moving from one town, state, and nation to another every two to three years. Until 1998, the longest I’d spent in any one town was in Germany. But thanks to military life, we lived in various places around the world, resulting in memories from a multitude of residencies.

Of all the places I’ve lived, and of all the memories at each one of them, those from the time spent in Illinois are the most intimate. We didn’t have much, in fact the house we lived in was about a century old and located in a poor area of the city; we barely made the level of “middle class” economically.

It was while living in that house where my sister and I learned to roller skate, where my father was attacked by bees while trying to mow the lawn, and where my he bought me my first BB gun (a Red Rider with a compass in the stock—and I still have it to this day). It was in that house where my sister and I ruined the kitchen floor, where we got the chicken pox, and where smoke poured into the house because Dad decided to grill inside the garage.

That old house was the first real “house” my sister and I ever lived in; it was base housing and apartments before that. In that house are where my father installed a chain-link fence, where we discovered cable TV for the first time, and where I first learned about a band called Kiss (they were on TV on Saturday mornings back then).

We were living in that house when my Dad and I both were saved by the grace of God. We came to faith in Jesus living in that house. It was there where my father was called and later licensed into the ministry.

I could go on with many, many more memories of my time in that house. We didn’t have much and we couldn’t afford much; cable television was a very high luxury for us. But for me, the memories revolve mostly around things we did: playing games, messing up kitchen floors, and fixing cars. There was no Internet, no cell phone, and no email. We didn’t have much, but we had each other and God. And for us, that is what our daily lives revolved around.

Now, nearly three decades later, things have changed. Today, we’re inundated with HD television, smart phones, email, Facebook, Twitter, and the list goes on. We get up in the morning then turn on the TV, start texting, or both. We rush home from school or work just to sit at the computer, check Twitter, or text our friends. People would rather spend their free time playing This-or-That-Ville on Facebook than play a board game with their kids. We rush home to watch the movie or show we’ve DVR’d rather than go outside and watch our children create chalk masterpieces on the sidewalk—or better, join in! What’s happened to us?

As I look at my own life, I wonder what memories my children will have twenty or thirty years from now? Will their eyes well up in joy as they recall their childhood in the place we live now when they view it Google maps or see it in photographs? What will they remember life being about or revolving around when they were kids?

What about your children? What memories will they have of their childhood? How can you impact their lives now in a positive way? Maybe you don’t have kids yet, or maybe they’re already grown and moved on. If so, I’m sure you know someone who does. If you want, please share this article with them, then put down the cell phone, turn off the computer, and spend time with your friends and family. Trust me, the world won’t end because you missed an episode of “House,” failed to tweet, or stopped texting for an evening.

About John L. Rothra
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