Sunday, January 27, 2013

Unexpected Treasures

Yesterday, I started taking down all my Christmas decorations.  As anyone out there like me--anyone who tries to make her house as much of a Christmas wonderland as she possibly can every year--knows very well, this is a PROCESS.  A long and tedious one, where everything goes back into its specially appointed box, and then the boxes go back into big plastic storage bins, and then the plastic storage bins get carted up to the attic...
Ready to tackle the tree today and carefully store away all my precious treasures...I have no idea how many ornaments I have; I just know there are A LOT of them.  (Now that I've said that, I'm curious and I'll probably count them.)
Putting it all out around Thanksgiving time is so much more fun that taking it down afterwards.  I hate to see it go.  That's why it's already a month after Christmas and I'm just getting to it now.  That, and the fact that my husband and I have been out of town more than we've been home.


Taking down the Christmas decorations always gets me in a bit of a spring cleaning mood, and this year is no exception (even though the temperatures outside right now are decidedly un-spring-like).  As I've been putting away the Nativities and Santa figurines, and pulling down the garlands and wreaths, I can't help but notice all the dust that's been accumulating over the holidays, and suddenly I am overcome with the need to clean and organize every corner, nook, and cranny of my house.  So that's why yesterday I found myself going through an enormous cardboard moving box in the basement, absolutely filled to the brim with each and every binder my youngest son kept during his four years of high school--binders crammed with tests, class notes, essays, papers, and computer print-outs.  This box has been sitting down there, neglected completely, ever since he began his college career at Notre Dame in the fall of 2011.  Like his older brothers before him, he asked me to hang onto his old notebooks in case there was any material in them that he might want to use as a reference at some later date.  But like his brothers before him, while he was home for Christmas break he gave me the official okay to toss them out.  (He hasn't looked at those binders once since he donned his cap and gown at his high school graduation.)

But I couldn't just throw away four years of his life's work without giving it a look-see first, so I made sure to sift through everything very carefully.  I ended up with a huge collection of tests, class notes, and such, which I dumped off at the recycling center yesterday; but I put aside for safekeeping any artwork, essays, or papers I could find.  And mixed in with all those piles of loose-leaf pages covered with messy,scribbled notes and math problems, I unearthed some unexpected treasures.

Like this one, a short, hand-written essay from his Humanities class freshman year, on the subject of "My Parents' Greatest Gift":  "Throughout my life, my parents have given me plenty of gifts, but one in particular exceeds all others, and that is my Catholic Faith.  Yes, my education, my clothes, my home and my worldly possessions have all been amazing gifts...but none of these comfort me in my times of hardship or give me hope for the future like my faith."  Wow, that just about did me in when I read it.  How wonderful it is for my husband and me to know that we (and I do give my hubby the lion's share of the credit in this) were able to instill such a deep love for the Catholic Faith in our youngest son; and how wonderful that he thinks of it as the best gift we ever gave him.  In my times of hardship--like those times when I question whether or not I've done as good a job as I should have in my vocation as a mother to the five souls entrusted to me by God--this gift from my baby will give me hope.

I found another freshman paper where he was asked to write about three aspects of his life that were important to him, and he chose family, sports, and last but certainly not least, faith.  In the "family" section, he wrote: "From an early age up to now, creating and maintaining a close bond with my family members has been of great importance to me. Fortunately for my parents and me, we have always been very close and rarely feel alienated from each other.  Whenever I have a problem, whether it's in school or in any other aspect of my life, I always know that I can go to my parents for help.  Perhaps this is because over the past five years, for grades 4-8, I was home-schooled by my mom and dad."  Wow again.  If I ever question whether we made the right move when we decided to homeschool him (which we never did with his brothers, and to explain why we did with him is long and involved and a subject for another day), all I have to do is refer back to these words. Another gift from my baby.

In the "sports" section of that same paper, he talks about following in the footsteps of his four older brothers, whom he idolized, and playing football and lacrosse at the same high school they attended:  " brothers were all excellent lacrosse players, and several of them received Academic All-American honors...  [Now] I am carrying on the Pearl legacy at St. Thomas; that... makes me feel that I am part of something that is much bigger than myself, and sometimes, it humbles and overwhelms me."  No essay written by any one of our boys about the important things in life would ever be complete without mentioning how enriched his life was by team athletics.

And finally, our youngest son talks again about his faith: "However, nothing has humbled me more or had a greater impact on my life than my Catholic Faith...I love God with my whole heart and wish only to please Him.  He showers us all with unconditional love, even if we do not deserve it.  And if He was not only willing, but longing to [suffer and die] for me, the very least I can do for Him is sacrifice one hour of my entire week to worship my Lord in the show the Savior of the World that I truly love Him in return."
Our youngest son with his former teachers!
My son got an A+ on this paper, and the teacher commented, "You express yourself so well!"  It's true, son #5 is a very good writer.  But it's not how well he expressed himself that makes these unexpected treasures I found in that box in the basement so precious to me; it's the subject matter about which he chose to write.

I'm so happy that taking down the Christmas decorations got me inspired to clean the house!  Just look at what I would have missed out on if I'd put off emptying out that box for another year (or ten)!

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