As a high school graduation present, from my mom’s boss at the time, I was given a time capsule (pictured above). I swiftly took to filling it with mementos from my childhood and it is now one of my most favorite and cherished belongings. Fortunately, my mom held onto this time capsule tin for me through my wanderings around the country when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Had she not done so, who knows what might have happened to it. It’s likely that it would’ve wound up with the same fate as my high school year book, which I unfortunately did not leave with my mom when I moved 2,500 miles away to Montana, at age 19. My high school year book, equipped with penned statements from scads of friends and my picture, tied for first place with another girl from my class, featured for having been voted by our peers as Most Environmental, sits in a landfill beneath tons of rotting debris. Somewhere in Alaska, I think. Having pitched it in a misled rebellious state, only achievable by young adults, I now deeply regret having thrown it away and occasionally try to google about how I might be able to order a reprinted copy.
Ever since my mom passed the time capsule back into my possession a year or so ago I’ve wanted to start this tradition with my stepson Jaden. Inspiration struck when deciding what to get him for his 17th birthday (which is tomorrow, November 8th). It took a surprisingly long time to find the sized tin I was looking for. Eventually I had to settle on ordering a tin chock full of three kinds of popcorn. Since Jaden doesn’t like popcorn his dad and I had to eat it ourselves – insert pretend sad face here. In the now empty smiley-faced 2-gallon tin, I gathered up an assortment of starter items for his new time capsule (pictured below): a brick we recently acquired from his 100-year-old elementary school down the street that was just recently torn down, the handbill from the play he was in 2 weeks ago, literary journal he helped to put together during his sophomore year, music poster from Flight of the Conchords, Star Wars button, favorite childhood stuffed frogs, the certificate he acquired after formally receiving the Two Promises at a Thich Nhat Hanh retreat in 2011, and a variety of other little things. There’s also room for him to add additional items as he sees fit.
One of the delightful surprises in my time capsule, that I had completely forgotten about, were letters written to me by a couple of my friends, sealed in envelopes never opened. So in preparation for Jaden’s time capsule, I contacted a few people to have them write him a letter, which will remain sealed until some undisclosed date well into the future. Feeling confident that he won’t stumble upon this blog post, here’s what I wrote in my letter to him:
In two days you’ll turn 17. Knowing you’ll be reading this years down the line makes it a little challenging to know what to say :) As a longtime parent member of Team Jaden I want you to know how grateful I am for you and for being your stepmom. You are a kind, thoughtful, funny, smart, and well grounded young man. Your dad and I are so very proud of you. Soon, you’ll be out and off into the world, creating your life as an adult. And it’s something I think about now and mentally prepare for, because I know it will be hard and I’ll dearly miss you. But all things are impermanent, subject to change. And we all need change in order to grow and transform.
I hope that as you read this you are happy and joyful in your life – that you are able to feel deep gratitude for this one precious life – that as you breathe in and out, the beauty of this world and goodness of its people resonate within you as an inherent truth, which it is.
As a baby, I held you in my arms, I hold you still, forever.
I love you like the stars love to shine, Nicole
There will also be letters from his dad, his grandparents on my side (my mom and stepdad), his paternal grandfather, and two of our close family friends that Jaden has grown up with knowing, one of which is like a brother to him.
I decided to craft a post around this because I felt as though it tied in nicely with my blog theme of Mindfulness in Motion. There used to be a time, back in that misled rebellious period I mentioned, where I would’ve thought that in holding onto scraps of the past meant not being able to fully engage with the present. Now I understand that there’s a big difference between unskillful attachment and beneficial connection.
I offer the suggestion of starting your own time capsule, whether for yourself or as a gift for a loved one of any age. Fill up a tin (or other suitable container), hold onto it, for a few years at least, and then open it back up and prepare to be transported for a temporary visit to a version of yourself you may have forgotten about.
Another idea I had is to start a time capsule with a younger child and then help them to add one or two items into it each year on their birthday, until they graduate from high school.
Who we were years ago is still part of who we are today. And who we are today contributes to who we will become in the future. It can be a lovely practice to get in touch with our past selves (and sometimes difficult too). In creating certain tools, that will enable us the chance to remember who we used to be, we can breathe into our past a fresh breath of perspective, with a renewed sense of gratitude for who we are right now, in the present moment.