Saying “So long” for the very first time

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by Brian Scarpa

Routine is good. Good, established routines have a unique way of making the rough patches of the day pass like a distant memory. After a long day of work, my children run to the opened door and greet me with bright smiles on their young faces, followed by big hugs and kisses. Having two daughters so close in age is a sweet dream for this father of four. My wife often reminds me “Little girls soften their daddy’s heart”. True indeed, Christeen, so very true!

Flash back to May 2006, this young father held the hand of Sophia Marie, brand new to the world and lying so peacefully in her hospital bassinet. As usually happens when deep in thought, I began speaking to myself. Is it possible to experience any greater joy than where I am right now, with a sweet little hand wrapped tightly around my pinkie finger? It was just a few days ago when the subtle kicks could be felt; now, a small hand holds tight to my heart. Life took on a completely new meaning that warm spring morning.

Right about the time when being a parent of a precious little girl started to establish a bit of its own routine, God blessed us with a little crib-mate for Sophia. Julia Katherine jumped right into the mix of things, with a jelly bowl of laughter and noise- lots and lots of noise! Noise and chaos became the new routine, and we could not have been happier.

As the pages of the calendar turn, and precious memories fill the days, we tend to look back on the small, simple things, and smile. It is funny how often we hear the catchphrase “Enjoy these moments of their childhood, because they go by so very fast”. I can now confirm the truth of that statement. The young, carefree days of youth do go by fast, perhaps sometimes a bit too fast. Time does not change; it is pretty much the same as it has always been. 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year; it is not really a matter of the value of time, it’s about the good times, the memories that make up the dash in between the years. I have learned that a good Orthodox life will reward you, as long as you hold steadfast to Faith in Christ and allow Him to guide you along the way.

Raising young children in the Orthodox faith has no parallel. Baptism, Chrismation, and Holy Communion help to form that needed foundation for the young, if you allow it to be. Society gives you a guarantee: it will tack on the heavy weights that will burden many an aching shoulder. Yet, with two feet firmly planted on the bedrock of His Church, anything to which you put your mind becomes a possibility!

The legacy of Metropolitan Philip lives on in the lives of many Orthodox Christians today, especially with his former and current campers of the Antiochian Village. After nearly 40 years, the Village continues to bring a sense a peace and joy to over 1,000 campers every summer. Two weeks of organized fun, camaraderie, fasting and prayer become a needed routine for the young minds and hearts. The Village gives children that opportunity to close the door on the ‘noise’ of the world and for that brief moment in time, actually find peace. It gives them a voice as it opens their ears. The decision to send our girls this past summer was not without hesitation, as any doting parent would feel a bit nervous giving up their kids for 2 weeks with no formal means of contact. Yet, after careful thought and consideration, it became obvious. This is not about us as parent saying so long, this is about the children and giving them a new chance say, “Welcome home”.

Perhaps it is only through good, established routines can these ‘hellos’ be made. Family Camp, annually held during the Memorial Day weekend, offers parents the opportunity to spend time with their children in the Camp setting. Cabin time, enjoying quiet dinners, playing “AV Ball”, and scaling the ropes course together and as a family, makes for an easier transition. We were most glad to enjoy that weekend together, as an Orthodox family. It proved to be a perfect lead-in to the summer sessions.

It’s end of July and Session IV begins to roll around on the calendar. Yes, nerves were high and a bit of the unknown still lingered. It was time to let those hands go, those same very hands held tight 10 and 9 years ago, for the very first time. Yes, the hands have grown a bit, but so has the love. The love of God and family allows you to let go, so that they can begin to say their new hellos to the Village and to their own lives. I guess it takes a little bit of letting go to allow them to say, “Welcome home!”

PS: Those 2 weeks passed by so quickly, as so often is the case with anxious times. When Sophia and Julia arrived home, we asked them how they felt and what were their impressions of the Village? Their response was simple and to the point: “Mom and Dad, we love you so much … but we have to, we just have to go back to the Village next summer! We will miss you of course, but it’s the Village, Mom and Dad – it’s a must!” Rest well Christeen, the children have spoken!

Proverbs 22:6 says, ”Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” A new summer routine has now been established, and we smile, for it is good!

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