On the brink of a new year, we’re thinking about fresh starts and how do we begin again and how your words matter. Whether you write, speak, or want to connect with the hearts of those you love, this year, The Word in your words can change the world. My friend, Holley Gerth and I have been talking and praying about words. How to serve with them and use them well. We’re writing our thoughts as a series of letters each Tuesday and we’d love for you to be part of the conversation too. Will you join us? ::
When I cleaned out that basement drawer on the first day of the year and unexpectedly found that old card with all the prints of their bared, inked hands, I had crumpled to the floor.
Ink loosens bones and can make one fall apart.
Where does all the time go and how is it that ink can line our skin and outline our souls?
I had forgotten all about that card, Holley. How I had made their handprints for our Christmas card that year, when we had four, three boys and a girl. The oldest then five. The youngest — seven. Seven days. I could hardly unfurl him.
He’d kept curling his natal fist when I went to make his handprint with the ink pad. Thus, the singular foot print. How could his toes ever been those string of black beads? I can remember how he felt, warm next to me — a sunning stone.
I had wanted to remember them all, just like that — the dimpled cheeks, the fine blonde hair, the bellies that jiggled when they giggled, and they giggled over everything — to somehow frame the art of now. I had used ink. I had pressed their hands, and that one wrinkled pink foot, to the pad — and they left their mark in ink. Pressed their wonder right into me.
A decade and one year later, and they are tall now. Those hands are big, carving out a life. The oldest and the girl both with feet larger than mine. I am sitting in a ring of lamp light, holding lines of their sworling ink. Of them long ago little. All that was. Sometimes I think I know where time goes — straight way to a bittersweet ache.
I don’t know how long I sat there tracing those black lines, Holley. Trying to find a way back in time.
And I don’t know which of the handprints I was outlining slowly when I realized: I don’t think now that we ever leave our mark in ink — It is the ink that marks us. It is the words that mark us.
It is all the ink and and all the words and and all the voices and and all the stories that stain us and make us who we are.
All the words I had ever spoken, they are making my children who they are.
What we speak into others, this is what they become.