This month my husband, Ken, and I decided to put new carpeting in our family room. The old carpet had been installed way back in 1983. Laying the original carpet had been the final part of a major addition to our home, and for several weeks our young children had played on bare plywood.
The day before the carpet arrived, I gave Mark, Gavin, and Elizabeth markers and told them they could draw pictures on the plywood and write down whatever they wanted. I knew that in the future, when the carpet came up, it would be fun for them to revisit their words and artwork.
They are all grown now and on their own. Not surprisingly, the carpet showed signs of the wear and tear that an active family can cause over the years. When I told them the rug was coming up, they tried to remember what they'd written beneath it. Each speculated about what we might find in the family's own time capsule.
Cellphone calls and e-mails crisscrossed New York State as our sons and daughters contacted one another with "remember when" stories.
Yesterday, Ken and I found what we were looking for near the fireplace. Mark, the oldest, had written his name as he used to in elementary school, "Mark P." He had also printed his siblings' names, as well as "mom and dad."
Gavin had put down his name in his kindergarten script with the dot on the "i" ballooning over the rest of it. He had also added our dog's name to the plywood archive.
Elizabeth's baby scribble was woven throughout all of the other names.
Ken and I looked down on our discovery with some reverence, remembering that December day in 1983. But the best was yet to come. When Ken removed the final piece of padding from the floor, he found a message in Mark's handwriting, "I love my family."
While the children were young, it was sometimes hard for us to pinpoint evidence that our efforts at parenting were successful. There came days - graduations, a wedding - that naturally triggered feelings of accomplishment. But as we coped with daily details, we didn't often see the big picture.
This little message, though, was as clear as the writing on the floor. That December day in 1983 had been a good one. Given enough of those, the big picture takes care of itself.