A few nights ago, I was soaking in a tub of lavender bubbles, reading a book with glass of wine, when a song came on my favorite 70’s soft rock station: Billy Joel – Just the Way You Are.
Don’t go changing to try and please me, you never have let me down before, mmm hm mm mmmmm.
Seventies soft rock was the soundtrack of my childhood…Gordon Lightfoot. Elton John, Dan Hill and Stevie Nicks.
Anytime I hear their songs, I feel like I’m four again, standing on a bench with my nose up to the birdcage, or at my mom’s heels while she makes lasagne and I melt crayons on a warming tray covered with tin foil. Those songs lodged deep as I rode in the backward backseat of our Oldsmobile station wagon, with AM station KJR on the radio.
Just the Way You Are turned my bathroom into our 24th street house, with the yellow counter tiles and red shag carpet, and for one little moment I felt in my bones just how safe and loved I was as a child, how careful and intentional Jane and Mike Quirk were as they worked their heads off to create something I thought everybody had.
In the 70’s and early 80’s, my dad floated private school educations and bought Christmas trees so large they had to be wired to the living room walls with eyebolts and fishing line. Suddenly I was eight again in the 42nd Street house where strawberry birthday cakes were baked and consumed on a deck with long views of Mt. Rainier and a pile of kids milling around my mom.
That’s what being cherished looks like, and I know now it was no accident. No small thing.
It’s no small thing when your Dad scours every record store in the greater Seattle area looking for Dan Hill’s Greatest Hits because you said you wanted it for Christmas, never imagining a universe where Dan Hill didn’t have a Greatest Hits album.
It’s no small thing when he spends $300 to make a summertime marshmallow roast on a clam-covered beach even more awesome by lighting up the Hood Canal with illegal fireworks.
It’s no small thing when your mom spends eight hours behind the wheel of a yellow Bayliner hauling you and your friends out of cold, glassy water so you can shriek and giggle as you ski on top of it; or when she kicks off your every birthday for decades with a scratchy cassette tape song performed by kid singer named Captain Zoom.
That’s what devotion looks like. That’s a way of saying to your kids, “you have no idea how much you matter.”
Not all kids had or have that, but I did and so did Sam. Here’s some visual evidence that sadly lacks Sam’s mom Betty Jo, who went home to Jesus too early for our taste.
But as one reader pointed out to me this week, even rough childhoods can be redeemed. She’s done some hard work on hers and built a snug, little haven of imagination and delight where her children know they are prized. That’s what God and redemption look like in her world.
Mike and Jane Quirk are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this June – a feat that deserves the week in France we’ve got planned, actually it deserves a week on Mars, but the South of France will have to do. None of us is perfect, not them not me, but if life’s like a report card, sometimes the grade that really matters is the one you get for effort.
So for all of you parents out there who scour Pinterest for cupcake recipes and sing little songs to your kids at night, keeping ever alert for the shimmering intangibles you can shower on them just so they know they are important and beloved, this one’s for you.