The Sweet Things in Life
Sometimes they sneak up on you by surprise. When you realize something has changed, you rise and look slowly around, like someone waking up from a dream.
Little things begin to come back. Gentle memories, silly traditions that made life fun when you were younger that you begin to realize weren’t permanently obliterated by the daily terrors of living, merely covered over like treasures on the ocean floor. The tide finally goes out, revealing things you weren’t aware of or had completely forgotten about, like the boxes of herbal tea gathering layers of dust in your cupboard.
In the past, from time to time, you would buy a new flavor at the grocery store and add it to your collection, provoking mild derision from certain friends because they never saw you drink it. The right man moves in and suddenly you’re having tea in the morning and little by little, the tea bags get used, the dusty boxes empty and are discarded and you turn out not to be so eccentric after all.
You take time out to sit down at a meal. Food starts to taste good and you don’t even realize it at first, because healing happens underground. The changes are so subtle, like growing roots, but the evidence becomes clear over time. Memories come back, and you remember the things that drew you closer to others and made life worth living.
I begin to see little opportunities I missed as a parent. About a week ago, I remembered all the tick marks on the door frame to the front hall put there by my dad, using a book as a straight edge for my brother, my sisters and me. Four years ago when my daughter first moved in, she couldn’t see in the bathroom mirror, so she would stand on the toilet seat to brush her teeth peering into a decorative moon mirror I had on the wall. There are still strands of her long hair caught in the plastic latch on the sliding door to her bedroom. Now that plastic latch barely reaches above her navel. Never once did I think to put tick marks on a doorframe (looking around, I’m not even sure which doorframe I would have liked to use). The clues were there the whole time: the movie we saw two years ago where the mother did that for her child. The paper ruler that came home from school. Little hints I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to catch.
My, how that little girl has grown. It’s not too late to celebrate.
Parenting is a frame of mind. Would more leisure time help people be better parents? A shorter work week? Freedom from want, freedom from fear?
Memorial Day gives us the opportunity for a fresh perspective, a nice long weekend to relax and remember, to reappraise what we value about life. Let’s look back on the kind of nation we wanted to be when our forefathers and foremothers began settling and building farms, cities, communities. Let’s remember what community is supposed to be, and on Tuesday let’s begin working to help everyone win, reinforcing the traditions that make us happy and healthy and gently remind us to celebrate each other.