August 17, 2016 § 3 Comments
I could measure the moment in minutes or miles, dollars or degrees. It was a hot day in an empty parking lot, only the space of regret between the water park and home. My teenage son was vacillating between the underwhelming energy of the nearly vacant park and a newly recognized wish to chase stolen moments of summer down winding slides.
He wasn’t sure we should splurge on a day’s fees for a moment’s indulgence, but the cost of passage was more an investment in joy. A lesson in listening to the little voice of intuition.
It isn’t easy to show up to our wants when we cannot hide our tenderness. Wanting to play with the exuberance of youth in the long limbed expectations of a cumbersome sense of maturity. How often do we dismiss joy in the name of reason?
Without ceremony I asked only what he might regret more, squandering a dollar or missing an opportunity? So he flew, up the stairs and down the slides in a tireless parade of contentment until there was no more pull to march the long, curving path to the top; only a restful readiness to return home.
August 6, 2016 § 4 Comments
A while back I wrote on the loss of a special piece of paper, something carefully crafted to preserve a sentimental corner of our old home to weight our new home with familiarity. It was the growth chart we had carefully tallied against the door frame between our kitchen and laundry room. Small lines in varying penmanship that marked the passage of time in the progress of height.
Last week, as I vacuumed an overlooked corner of our home, the previously presumed lost piece of paper was found.
Even as I held the list, my mind argued the impossibility of its reality against the fiction of my memory’s certainty. I could replay my error like scenes from a movie that rolled slowly from frame to frame. The folded piece of notebook paper that I plucked from beneath our charging station; admonishing myself for safe keeping something I had not, for weeks, recalled referencing. I labeled it unimportant and shuffled in among so many other displaced items as I breezed through in a moment’s urgency to sweep away the chaos of clutter.
I can still feel the grit of dust and the course chafing of paper against my fingertips, the irritation that ruffled my patience. The satisfaction of crumpling my frustration in the a tidy ball and, later still, the sense of loss that I had been so reckless in my dismissal. The urgency with which I had mentally retraced my steps, unfolding a page and mourning dates and names that guarded a sense of us that could not be translated from numbers to words.
Only, my memory is wrong. The evidence rests in a piece of paper that tells another story. Old lines on new walls now guard the past with presence.
Which makes me wonder of the page I was so certain of. There are no other numbers I have missed, papers I cannot place. Maybe it was nonsense rightfully recycled into waste, but the exercise in mindfulness was not lost to error.
August 4, 2016 § 6 Comments
Here, where I so often safeguard my thoughts by documenting our days, there have been broad expanses of quiet in the gentle busyness of summer distractions. It has been a time of indulgent simplicity, but also one of complicated questioning as my thoughts perpetually snag on a memory from earlier this summer.
It is a day I have hesitated to sound out but cannot exclude for its relevance to our experiences.
One evening in June, my husband and I found ourselves caught in an uncomfortable conversation with acquaintances who were guests in our home. They spoke in narrow platitudes and their conviction challenged our tolerance. I was tempted to end the evening, to name their prejudice and sit in judgment of their words.
I might have called out the offense, but their children were playing happily upstairs. Their daughter has been a kind and generous, thoughtful, friend to our daughter as she settled into our new community. And so I hesitated, wondering:
Is it better to offer a safe space for different beliefs or the illusion of a controlled environment? Could I refuse our children their friendship or were they stronger for the questions their differences might inspire?
There was no easy answer and I bristled against the trespass with a self-righteous indignation. How could we allow our child to spend time under the influence of those whose beliefs contradict our own? How could we not?
What if the greatest gift we could give our children was the ability to acknowledge the good within others to better speak through our disagreements, respectfully, with empathy? To see and be seen in a world that feels mapped by lines of hate.
I returned to these thoughts, day after day, as news stories kept these questions present in my doubts. I began to wonder what might happen if instead of responding to hate with anger we paused in our speech to listen. What if the ugliness in our world is really an echo that might dissipate in silence?
Of course my optimism might be oversimplified, but the work of offering uncomfortable kindness in place of polite performances of tolerance has created a different expectation of self.
This week, as our daughter celebrated her twelfth birthday, we included the child whose family’s beliefs are so very different from our own. I listened as the small group engaged genuinely on topics that invited conflict, but were met with genuine acceptance and realized that our children are living a kinder truth.
In the noise of so much heartache, our children (collectively) are offering empathy where others might close their heart to compassion, exercising kindness where adults so often struggle against anger. Extending patience when emotions are passionately challenged.
They are listening and learning from our hopes and fears more than any of our certainties; sounding out their own truths, choosing their own friends.
June 27, 2016 § 4 Comments
There are many ways I might remember yesterday, but the moment I most wish to capture, I did not see. I can speak only to the minutes before and after, admiring the in between.
You were coveting a small vase at a local art festival with insufficient funds and a determined hopefullness when you asked me if you could approach the artist with an offer for less. I wanted to tell you no; be still, be quiet, be grateful. Let what you have be enough.
Instead I gave you room enough to act. Alone.
I expected the vendor would politely refuse you, but your face told another story.
There was so much joy in your expression; exuberance as you displayed your bright, pink bag.
The artist engaged your question and indulged your request; she sold her work at a fraction of its worth and honored your sense of value in the process.
You were proud, radiant in your enthusiasm as you replayed your victory.
This kind stranger respected the gumption you demonstrated and celebrated your interest in her work by accepting your offer. You taught me a lesson in reckless trust and uncertain effort; leaping toward confidence and gambling hope.
June 24, 2016 § 4 Comments
Maybe it was the predictable pattern of beach days or the sudden breeze that pulled at loose ends and shuffled my sense of order, but yesterday found me gathering the kids into a different direction as we headed to our local farmers market.
Crowded sidewalks with broken lines and overlapping conversations trailed behind us like small children with sticky fingers. Fresh produce and artisan baked goods bookending handmade gifts and overpriced lemonade. We ate curled into shade to avoid hot park benches and window shopped air conditioned offerings.
Colors like street performers created a riot of music that drew the eye pushing us through currents of congested shoppers. We sampled and explored until our bellies were full and the sun slanted against our backs, each child lost to an unexpected treasure and eager for silence.
June 23, 2016 § 4 Comments
Before our move I tried on each piece of clothing in my closet determined to keep only those items that fit, were in good shape, and made me feel beautiful. It was an indulgent experiment, a consciously minimalist exercise in less that lightened the work of moving while creating a need to replace a few necessary wardrobe staples.
For the past year I have happily managed without many new purchases, until now. As I filled the gaps in my children’s summer wardrobe to accommodate winter’s growth, it became obvious that my own choices were sincerely lacking. I spent an afternoon drifting between stores, struggling to find clothing that was neither matronly or juvenile, only to find myself confronted with an unhappy reflection of unflattering choices.
This was what drove me to seek direction with an outsourced service based on tidy measurements and instinctive preferences. Impersonal details that might communicate greater possibility to someone uninhibited by my skewed sense of self how I might look in something unfamiliar.
Today was my third attempt in as many shipments. The first two forays into this new experience were frustratingly disappointing. Sizes were a little off, but fabrics were hopefully delightful. Prices were reasonable and styles were novel to my daily uniform of denim and cotton. Colors and design elements began a new conversation in form and function, need and pleasure.
There have been a couple close misses, tops or dresses I wanted to keep but could not rationalize for poor fit or inconvenient practicalities, but today’s dress was a beautiful disaster. I fell in love with the lightness of the fabric as it spooled through my fingers. A whimsical design that felt immediately romantic for the ribbons of flowers and birds that chased the length of a skirt with slits cut discreetly along each leg.
For a moment, I wanted to keep the object that lulled me nearer a fantasy so I smiled as I twirled for my daughter. It was as I was smiling that she noted my wrinkles then quickly qualified them as something good; a sign that I smile so much.
In that simple acknowledgment I felt more beautiful than the elegant pattern I knew I would fold neatly to return; the dress that I wouldn’t wear for the ill-fitting design of a top too small and a style more impulsive than timeless.
I’m keeping, instead, the lines on my face and a new smile for a stolen moment of dress-up. A snapshot to hold safe this memory for another time. Grateful for the keepsakes of old smiles in telltale laugh lines.
June 23, 2016 § 3 Comments
Last weekend we painted our daughter’s room. It was a questionable commitment to an uncertain shade of happiness. Her wall color and bed frame grounding an otherwise impersonal space in an intimate expression of self.
Gone was the pastel pink of her nursery or preteen purple of our last home; there wasn’t a hint of my choosing in her shade of joy. It was the first time I let go completely, without rules or interference. Bold swaths of color cut through the monotone neutral walls that link each room in a comfortable calm.
If my daughter was relaxed and euphoric as she waited on paint to dry, I was cautiously anxious. This change drew my attention and I watched, circling nervously, as one corner of our home stretched beyond my comfort into a daring risk and noisy expression.
Yellow and blue clanged in want of admiration and I found myself paused on the periphery of something unexpectedly familiar; envying my daughter her confidence in the ease of her playful choice.
The leap of faith in her certainty as she colored outside the lines to better shade her space with individuality.