"Ugh. Look -- a mustard stain and peanut butter oil smear on my pants. Dang it," said the Mama.
I smiled. "Honey, the stains have only just begun with these two." I tilted my head toward the backseat where Beatrice and Bryce sat snuggled in their car seats watching a movie.
The Mama shrugged. "Hey, I think these are the stainiest years."
"The stainiest years?"
"Yes, the stainiest years."
We both laughed. We were on our way to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for some Easter fish fun, but the "stainiest years" persisted for me like coffee spill in carpet padding that keeps seeping up month after month after month...
As parents of young children, many of us develop a visual eraser of sorts, one that scrubs away those new stains on the cabinets, the walls, the furniture, the bathtubs, the beds and the carpets. It's easier not to see them than to constantly clean them, especially when you're tired and still haven't completely cleaned off two-year-old hot chocolate stains from the dining room blinds.
But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that the stainiest years for the B-hive have yet to come. The "stainiest" stains are the ones that come with the living years, the ones throughout childhood, teengage-land and adulthood.
There are the literal and minor yet pleasurable ones like the bacon grease stains on my San Jose State University sweatshirt I received when cooking breakfast for the family, or the bigger literal ones when the garage guest room carpet was rain soaked and stained because we neglected to clean the rain gutters (cleaned most of that up though).
Then there are those with much more visceral impact on our lives, the stainiest years that come and go. But mercy me do they always come, relentlessly and without apology. They can be a mix of joy and sorrow, although much of it we usually associate with the sorrow we experience in varying capacities through life, which we then try to erase with whatever measures at our disposal -- conscious and subconscious partitioning, therapy (of any kind) and drugs and/or alcohol. Hopefully there's also the self-awareness ability we learn and develop to assess, manage and adapt to the stainiest years.
The latter is one thing I've learned from the Mama as well as my parents. Unfortunately now the worst of stains are upon my parents, with my dad dying of cancer (since the radiations treatments didn't work), and my mom in the hospital yet again (being chronically ill for decades and for the rest of her life). I don't share this lightly; it's been an arduous journey for them both and we're working to provide them the best quality of life possible. However, their legacy of love and perseverance continues in them as well as in the lives in their five children, eight grandchildren, one great-grandchild, a myriad of other family and friends as well as an amazing church community where they live in Oregon.
Many of us want our worlds to be continually scrubbed clean, to be shiny and new, but our powerfully human stories move others from the stainiest years. We hope to teach our daughters to unfurl theirs on high, proudly and without regret.