Many years ago I purchased a wooden sign that has since hung in our living room. It reads “These are the good old days” and I knew when I saw it that those words were true. I was happily married, lived in a new house, had a decent job, and was enjoying life. Surely those days were good.

The sign is surrounded by some special photos of, especially good days. There is the group photo taken overlooking Lake of the Clouds when we snowmobiled in Michigan with friends. There is the photo I took while on a sunset jetski tour in Key West. There is a picture of my beloved Golden Retriever who left us five years ago. There is a photo of our much younger selves at the spot along the river where we became engaged. There is my grandparents’ wedding photo, beaming with youth and love – it is how I imagine they look today in heaven. There is a photo of two dear friends and me from a fun night at a gangster/flapper themed party in Chicago. There is a photo of my groom and I surrounded by our wedding party. Yes, those were all exceptionally good days worthy of framed photos.

Living room with cross, piano, and family photos.

The sign hung there as we awaited the arrival of our son. It was there as a reminder on groggy mornings and the monotonous days of early motherhood. Beneath it now sits a third generation piano. Atop the piano are pictures of a boy who stole my heart and made my days oh so much better than I’d known possible. The obligatory school photo. The photo that shows his silent swagger, covered in mud fresh from riding his ATV. Ahh yes, these are the good old days too.

As our boy gets older we begin to transition to another new phase of life and I look ahead feeling a bit uncertain if the days will be as good. None of us are getting younger. Our son will be a teenager as our parents enter their eighties all while we try to wrap our heads around our own age. My husband and I have recently begun to chat a bit about what we want our lives to look like in retirement. That feels unreal to me, but also deeply hopeful. We ponder the pros and cons of traveling or being snowbirds or homebodies in the country. Each vision comes with its own sense of possibilities. In reality, I know I will likely want to settle wherever our son builds his future because I want a front row seat to his good old days. Good Lord willing I will be a doting silver-haired grandma still holding grandpas hand. I’m positive those would be good days.

It is easy to look back fondly at days that have held our life’s highlights. It is equally easy to look forward with some apprehension. The sign reminds us to appreciate the here and the now. The present is all we are promised. I often wish I could find a pause button or a brake pedal to slow this life down. That sign serves to remind me that isn’t how it works. If I had been able to pause in my relatively carefree twenties thinking that was as good as it could get wow I’d have sold my life short. The thought of missing out on motherhood to hold onto youth and freedom seems devastatingly short-sighted now. If I would’ve so feared middle age that I chose to stop there wow I’d have missed out on how amazing it is to finally know comfort in my own skin. And so, onward we go.

There will be struggles. There will be loss. Changes will come. Some will seep in subtly and others will shock us. But that sign has hung there for well over a decade and been true each and every day. True even on the days in between the highlights. Because joy is tucked into simple days, nestled in next to the big moments, intertwined in the tough days. I will choose to focus on that.