Guest columnists Kate and David Marshall: If Life Is A Journey, Here’s a Map

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Kate and David Marshall, married for 28 years, live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where they raised their children Emily, 26, and Ben, 23. They are co-authors of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future, a journal that guides people at any stage of life through a process of reflecting on their past and clarifying priorities for their future. The Marshalls are also co-authors of six other guided journals for celebrating family, relationships and personal growth: www.marshallbooks.net

Dear Emily and Ben,

We finally traded in our mini-van “Sandy.” We loved that van. She wasn’t glamorous, but she let you have the childhood we wanted for you.

With Mom at the wheel, Sandy shuttled you and an assortment of buddies to elementary and middle school, soccer practice, and scout meetings. You stuffed her many cup holders with granola bar wrappers as you snacked between band practice and trips to the store for science project supplies. We loaded her with Thanksgiving turkeys for family feasts here, both practical and fun Christmas presents, your first bikes, and our first computer.

When you were teens, she bravely offered herself as your learn-to-drive car. She rose early to drive through morning fog to Ben’s soccer tournaments far and wide; to Emily’s dog sport trials at county fairgrounds in the valley; to road trip vacations to Oregon and Vancouver. Like Mary Poppins’s bottomless carpetbag, she barreled down Highway 5, magically loaded with Ben’s bed, desk, bike, and the rest of his college gear to and from LA for four years. We loved each and every one of those 141,000 miles she drove in service of your many interests and our family vacations.

Saying “goodbye” to Sandy made us look back at how much you have both brought to our lives: the German that Mom learned alongside you in toddler playgroup when we lived in Munich; the joy we both felt as you discovered a love of reading; the friends we made while sitting on the soccer side lines; and the permission that being with you gave us to have moments of pure silliness. Having to come up with answers to your many, many questions about how the world works kept us learning.

At times, you have been our muses: your curiosity about Dad’s unusual upbringing in the Ecumenical Institute helped convince him to write his memoirs about it. Emily’s discovery of the dog sport of agility gave Mom a new hobby when she took over for you after you left for college—who knew that running through timed obstacle courses with our dog could be so much fun? Ben’s interest in golf gave Dad a new hobby, too. Your curiosity, drive, and pure energy gave shape to our lives for many years.

When we were writing about our pasts in our life planning journal, My Life Map, we were struck by how much better you’ve made all sections of our maps—place, family, friends, learning, work, service and, most definitely, playing.

We missed you each when you left for college in 2004 and 2007. The sudden quiet was deafening. With no flurries of activity as you swept through the house, no homework sprawled across the kitchen table, an empty sink and laundry basket, and no Cheerios in the cupboard, it was clear that a new phase had begun. But we were happy for you: you were in college learning, growing, deepening and broadening your ideas, building lives.

We miss Sandy, and all that she stood for, but we’re also excited about the new car. Mom has named her “Vicky,” in part because she is a Prius V, but also to celebrate our Victory as a family. We had no idea what an adventure raising you two would be, but it has been an extraordinary success. When we look back at the start of our little family—our marriage, each of your births, how hard we all worked to take care of each other, and how much we’ve all grown—we are proud of us. We’re thankful for the opportunity to raise two amazing humans. Victory!

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

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