I'm sure that my uncle had a lot of faults; funny thing is, I was never aware of any of them. He's a laid-back, patient man who gets amused by the tiniest things. I loved playing at his house when I was a child. I remember chasing cats in his barn, feeding his cows, playing hide-and-seek, and spray painting his wall. Yep. Somehow in my free time as a 6 or 7 year old, I found a can of spray paint and took it to the brick wall of my uncle and aunt's enclosed back porch. I don't remember why I did it, but I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I knew I had to show my relatives what I had done. I don't remember what my uncle said to me, but I do remember that he didn't get angry. I remember that I did not get disciplined and I knew I should have.
Last night as my kids tricked and treated, they all got to meet my uncle for the first time. Over 25 years after the incident, my children got to see the evidence of my childhood mishaps. My aging uncle turned on the dim light to the back porch and pulled back his jackets that hung on the wall. There it was....clear as.....black spray paint on a red wall. As my kids squealed with delight over their mother's mischief, the conversation went something like this:
Kids: "Mom, I can not believe you did that."
Me: "Me either."
Kids: "If we would have done that, we would have gotten a spanking."
Me: "Yes. Yes you would."
Kids: "WHAT were you thinking?"
Me: "I don't know. What could I have been thinking?"
Kids: "I guess you were thinking that wall could use some re-decorating."
My uncle's reaction was strange. He chuckled years ago, and today he is still genuinely laughing about the whole ordeal. He told me that he passed by the "artwork" the other day and thought of me. My uncle and aunt sat at their table in amusement and said "if that's the worst thing that's ever been done to us, we'd be doin' alright."
My uncle never had to muster up the right feeling when it came to that stuff; he automatically responded well when children messed things up. There's a reason he doesn't react in explosive anger. When he built the walls of his house, he wasn't thinking of resale value. He was thinking of the value of the people in his home. And though he had every right to lash out at me over the permanent markings, he chalked it up to the fact that kids do stupid things and it doesn't necessarily mean they'll turn out to be stupid people.
Last night made me think a lot about the things I want to pass down to my kids. Do I want to pass down shiny heirlooms that sit on a shelf, untouched by grimy hands? Do I want something tangible that can be admired by observers? Because the truth is: the prettier something is, the less it's been used. The fine china doesn't give my kids their daily nourishment--they are fed by the bowls with the dents and knicks. Each scrape and scratch and scuff on my dining room table tell the story about a happy kid who was coloring or eating or running their toy car across it.
I want to pass down useful qualities, unseen by the eye. I want to be a parent who is strict on love, and lax on stuff. When people look at my kids and grandkids, I want them to see the handy artwork of Jesus (who in the flesh, happened to be a man strangely unattached to things. He left the world homeless, His only possession being the people He left behind.).
I wrote un-useful things on my uncle's wall. His reaction to my uselessness wrote useful things on my heart.