Carry Ons, So We Can Carry On In Authenticity.

“Why is it our childhoods carry so much weight?”

Sure we must move forward, but if there was nothing behind us we wouldn’t have anything to move forward from. I realize splitting semantic hairs might slosh some philosophy around, but this is two lives together, melding past with present to reach for the future.

My wife and I talk a lot about our upbringing and the baggage we packed. I believe our good experiences sometimes get stowed in the cargo hold, while our carry-ons, filled with the disappointments, keep dropping on our laps from the overhead. We’re sitting next to each other, so often our stuff gets mixed together when we hit some turbulence. We try to help the other sort the mess out. We divvy up his and hers, zip up the bags, and put them back up where they belong. We try.

Lately I’ve been trying. Barbara, my wife, hasn’t stopped trying. In the midst of a large family, with two adopted sets of four children each, added to our four bios, the turbulence settles like a fog periodically. Yes, that’s twelve children. Twelve. So to deal with our personal “stuff” is tricky amidst all suitcases laying around. We become baggage handlers and run out of hands. I say we loosely, because for the majority of our journey my independence has left my wife flying alone with the children, pre and post adoption.

So, “Why is it our childhoods carry so much weight?” That’s what Barbara and I ask each other from time to time, not in so many words. Often the question doesn’t form from our lips, but plays out in our ‘doing life’ together in our ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ existence. Our late night debriefings after a turbulent day occasionally drop personal baggage contents in our laps. My baseline is to disengage, sweep issues under the tarmac, and hop a redeye to a book, or write, or ride the lawn mower with headphones on. I know these activities are not bad in themselves.

Counselors. I have experienced many. Group therapy. Yup. “My name is Jerry, and I have baggage.” They have to start somewhere. Sure I’ve gone into therapy with an immediate issue in my lap, but a good counselor will quickly see beyond it and help explore origins. Origins mean childhood, upbringing, and apparently parents. Always. The reason for this is not to help me settle into some victimhood, fall asleep with headphones on, and entirely miss the flight experience. I see it as the counselor offering me a window seat to gain perspective to experience the fear of flying, or heights, or clausterphobia along with the wonder of flight.

Wonder is one of the updrafts of childhood. Sometimes childlike wonder wanes under imperfect parents, culture, religious ambiguity, and lands into adult realities far too soon. The flight lands, and childhood is taxied to the myriad of concourses of grown-ups. The baggage is pulled from the carousel and the perspective of wonder is diminished.

I realize I might have stretched this aeronautic metaphor a bit, but simply put, my childhood matters. The good and the bad and the in-between. It is part of the mystery of the whole or ‘hole’ I carry around with me.

I imagine the flight attendant offering me something to drink. I choose a glass of wine and lift it toward the other passengers as I glance out the window.

Prayer: Oh God, you knit us in our mother’s womb. You saw us when the turbulence shook us when we were yet children. Come help us be as little children again, and hold us in mid-flight. Amen.

Elton got me thinking today…



  1. I think authenticity makes for a good bit of baggage :).

  2. All the best, Jerry, for you and that wonderful family of yours. Just think of all the grand kids you may be blessed with some day.

    Wanda S.

  3. Amazing truths written here, Jerry. Well said. You always make me think.

  4. Ups and downs; ins and outs. What worth would the joy be if there would no pain to compare it with? Growing up (and older) is hard work. I thank God I lived through it all to this day and He has given me a peaceful existence with my Jack. I (we) are SO BLESSED!

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