Tag Archives: moment of wonder

Letter to Thing 3

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Dear Thing 3,

It never fails. On the days we walk to school and I wish I had my camera, I never do.

Today was such a treat to be with you. Do you remember? The sun, in its autumnal slant, so surgical and bright, like a laser, but weaker than in summer was still strong as there were no clouds. Frost had cured on the grass blades and the top cover of the fallen leaves we encountered on our walk out to school today and you asked me, “Where does the frost come from? It’s so sparkly.”

“It’s like a billion diamonds on the ground.” I said.

“Just for us,” you said.

“It’s from the moisture in the air; the dew. It freezes on the leaves and in the morning, we get diamonds.”

“They don’t last long, these diamonds. There are so many of them! It’s like a field of them!” you said and then fell silent. We stopped to look at a few. We moved our heads around to see more sparkles.

You will be 10 tomorrow.

It seems like every milestone is a new milestone in your life. That doesn’t make sense. I guess I just mean that it’s all so much. You’re the last one.

10.

Ten.

Two complete hands. The end of the two hands.

Before we left, I considered my camera / phone. I decided to leave it at home, amidst the breakfast smells of pancake and coffee. I prefer to be present, free of it. As much as you see me tinkering with it, T3, I really am better off without it.

“How many days are in a year? 365? I thought that there were only 364 days,” you asked as I helped you with your pilled black knit gloves today, the ones I bought in bulk at the Amish auction all those years ago with our friend, “RICK!”

“Well, the going rate these days, is 365. I believe leap year makes it 366, but I will admit my facts on that are loose, so I’m not entirely sure although I do believe 365 is the predominant number. Ready?” I asked, holding open the door, but thinking to myself back at my own childhood and remembering the 364/365 proposition more than 365/366.

“Can I have lemon cake and chocolate frosting?” you asked.

“Why? And WHAT?! Who eats that?! Only goofballs…” I said.

“This goofball wants that,” you said.

I looked at you funny, pretending to be offended by the mention and I could see your smile fade. You were a little crestfallen. The joke had gone too far. You asked me, “Mom… can’t I have a lemon cake with chocolate frosting?”

“Absolutely you can.” I said and your smile returned.

On the way down the street you asked me, “What’s attachment? What did they mean about ‘not getting attached’ to that otter in the video?”

You were talking about “Otter 501,” the story about a stray newborn otter in Monterey, California.

“It means no eye contact between the trainers and the otter; that’s why they wore those welder’s masks and ponchos, so the otter couldn’t see their eyes. Did you notice they didn’t talk to her either? She could learn their voices and prefer one trainer over another trainer. In animals, it’s called ‘imprinting’ but in humans, because we believe we’re so different than animals, we call it ‘attachment.’ It’s basically falling in love with the otter, which could get in the way with her ability to go back to the ocean.”

“I would be attached anyway to that otter,” you said. “Helmet or not. I love her from my tv.”

Speaking of attachment, we didn’t take your dog with us today. He wasn’t ready to go. When I returned, he seemed fine with the temporary abandonment.

10.

It all goes too fast. Way too fast. I want it to slow down.

I was so compelled by the frost on the leaves, and my urge to remember this moment, that when I came home I picked up my camera and went back out to try to capture some of the sparkle but suspecting all the time that it would be the inverse of what we hear about supernatural phenomena: that it’s not viewable to the naked eye, or in this instance the iPhone. I suspect that I will need my big, actual camera to take proper pictures of the sparkly leaves. But here are a few unsparkly leaves…

there is no sparkle, but there is beauty in it; look at those crystals! "They're free! They don't cost anything!" you said when you saw them.

there is no sparkle, but there is beauty in it; look at those crystals! “They’re free! They don’t cost anything!” you said when you saw them.

Here’s another cool frosty leaf:

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I want you to live life beautifully, T3. I want you to ask questions, always.

Do you remember overhearing me and Dad talking about “the silent treatment” this morning? You asked me, “What is the silent treatment?” and I told you. Then you asked me why I was talking about it and I told you. You asked me, “Why would anyone do that? Why not just talk about your feelings? We don’t all have to agree…” and we talked about that. Then you came to a conclusion all by yourself when you said, “Well, giving the silent treatment is cruel.”? My heart swelled when you said that. “It’s easier said than done, to not give the silent treatment, bud…” and you didn’t agree.

Life has miracles and wondrous moments happening right in front of us every day, all the time! There is no reason to think it is boring, we just have to be willing to open our eyes. You’re pretty good at that already; it’s just that as we age, we tend to forget those things. I hope you never do.

As I ascended the hill on my second walk back home this morning:

This is a very nice way to start your day...

This is a very nice way to start your day…

I saw this. I was so glad I went back out to try to take some sparkle pics.

the leaf blowing…

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it all seems so ordinary… no big deal…

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but it’s like a dance to me. the leaves fly up and then they waft down. they fly up and roll and curl and flip. sure, it’s a man working a leaf blower, but the LEAVES, T3… watching them. that.

Watching the leaves billow and plume … it could do it all day. It seems weird, I guess, to be so enraptured by such an everyday thing, leaf blowing… your mom’s eccentric views, but to me it’s like a ballet between the gardener and the leaves. It’s poetry in motion.

The leaf-blowing man must’ve thought I was with the NSA or something. I hope I didn’t worry him.

When I came back home, the house was warm and expectant. It still smelled of maple syrup, coffee and pancakes. The dishwasher was still running and the lights were on under the cabinets. Laundry, as usual, was waiting to be folded or put away. I came to the conclusion yesterday, T3, that smells tell me how busy I’ve been. If I smell laundry in the dryer, pumpkin bread in the oven and tea in my mug, I’ve had a busy day. These are the smells of progress.

I didn’t want to waste a moment, I had these thoughts fresh on my mind. I find that it’s hard for me to concentrate these days; I’m still so sad about Mimi. So I wanted to get these words off to you as soon as I walked in.

After I took off my hat and gloves and put my coat away, I turned my way into my office / guest room and Gandalf, that massive gray barn cat of ours leapt off the bed and scurried out the door; I could hear his back claws grab whatever they could of the carpeting to ensure a speedy getaway as he careened and serpentined out of the room. It was like he was saying, “Oh crap! Busted!” (Because I can’t stand them when they’re on our beds.) He and his sister are irritated with me: they are both as big as watermelons and I’ve cut back their kibble rations to half of what they’re used to. Lean times ahead for the kitties, I’m afraid. I know they’re not ballooning up from us; it’s all the chipmunks they’ve hunted.

Well, even though tomorrow is your 10th birthday, I’ll tell you a secret that your auntie T told me one day when I turned 45: it’s not really your 10th birthday. It’s the first day of your 11th year. When you were born, that was the first day of your first year. The last day of your first year was the day before your first birthday. You’d been “1” all along. When you turned 1, it was the first day of your second year… and so it goes. So today… is the last day of your tenth year.

I love you, Thing 3. Happy birthday.

Mom

On Memorial Day

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I live in the Pentagon’s bedroom; surrounded by some of the world’s smartest senior military officers both active duty and retired.

Every Memorial Day weekend, my neighbors and I arrange a cookout. My neighborhood is Rockwellian. We’ve thought of moving, we almost did once, to a bigger house, one with a garage, but the fact of the matter is that the intangibles of living here: our neighbors and our way of life, simply can’t be replicated.

I am not married to a military officer, but my blood is American, and I support these extremely brave men and women; officers and their spouses, who have valiantly pledged their lives for my and your freedom.

We are blessed; all of our neighbors have been spared the ultimate cost of military service, but they have all proudly served in the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia. Right now, one of our officers is serving in North Korea. In a month, when he returns, we will send off another officer who will serve in Afghanistan for a year as his wife and three young children wait patiently and faithfully for his return. I’ve seen this happen, oh, six or so times now. Each of these officers leave and come back; every day a moment of wonder and a silent prayer offered up, perhaps in vain, for their protection and safe return.

I was reluctant to write about today; I wrote last November about my great uncle Buddy, who served in World War 2 and never made it home from Normandy. That post is poetic, if I do say so myself; but it’s not poetic because I wrote it, it’s poetic because of the fantastic artifacts my family managed to hold on to while Buddy trained for war. Click >here< if you are interested in that post.

As I was saying, I was reluctant about writing about Memorial Day because to me it’s gotten bastardized, corrupted, patronized, commercialized and shapeless. Memorial Day, to me, is like a National Day of Obligation (akin to the Holy Days of Obligation I grew up waiting to avoid) in which we sit, for just one moment or maybe sixty, in quiet repose to think about all the men and women who have died to protect our freedom.

There are those among us who are bitter about war (I raise my hand at times about it); I don’t understand war. On Mother’s Day, my youngest son, Thing 3 who is nine, asked me in front of his dad and two older brothers, “Mom, what do you wish for today? You have three wishes.” I said to him, “It will sound cheesy, like I’m in a beauty pageant, but I want simple things: health for you and your brothers and all your friends; happiness for you and your brothers and all your friends; and I want world peace everlasting. Not just for a day, but for all eternity.” A lump formed in my throat when I uttered those wishes. I meant them all.

So that means I don’t want war. That means that although I don’t want war, and I don’t understand war, I am aware of the fact that there is evil in the world. Sometimes I wonder if my beloved country is actively evil. I know to other people halfway around the world, we are considered evil. What makes us right? What makes them wrong? It all depends on what side of the barrel you’re on I suppose.

So that got me thinking, about war. Yesterday, when Thing 3 was watching Looney Tunes on the couch, there were the fantastic epic battles: Bugs v. Daffy in “Rabbit Seasoning” and Bugs v. The bull in “Bully for Bugs”; Elmer v. Bugs, Road Runner v. Coyote (for once I wish that bird would get his); Tweety v. Sylvester. Then there was one between Bugs and Yosemite Sam. The feud had escalated to a point from slingshot v. pellet gun to revolver v. shotgun to machine gun v. bazooka to canon v. Sherman tank v. atomic bomb and it dawned on me, again unfortunately, as it does every time I think about war, that this has been going on — the “who’s got bigger gun to hurt the other guy first” phenomenon for millennia and what it all boils down to for me anyhow is vulnerability.

I also saw a heartbreaking yet incredible example of that sort of horrifying detachment when I saw an episode of “Nature” when a zebra stallion encountered a foal that was birthed by his mare, but that it was not his foal, and this zebra went after this foal until it was dead. The stallion instinctually slaughtered the young foal because it was not his, and thus instinctually deemed to be inferior. So while I want to chalk it up to vulnerability; I want to believe that we are also part instinctual, that it’s fear (duh, but seriously deep fear that resides in the places we don’t like to talk about at cocktail parties) that foments war, and that fear is born of vulnerability.

But we are humans, we can reason. Right? Sometimes not so much. I catch myself wishing, perhaps foolishly, for people to a grip and not be so reactive, then maybe we’d have a chance at this everlasting peace thing. It takes awareness and humility and sacrifice, on all our parts. We all just want to live, right?

So I ask these senior officers what they think about it all and of course they want peace; they all have children, some have kids who are on active duty right now or whom have graduated from the service academies and will be serving soon. Others have grandchildren. A couple kids I know want to go into the service academies or enlist when they’re old enough. But these senior officers aren’t the ones making the calls; as high as they are in their rank, they still don’t have much of a say in terms of the massive global industrial war complex. We can’t solve these problems. After all, these men and women have children to feed and that happens to be closely tied to their military service. They’re no different from me and you.

So I bring it back down to the street-level view for them. “Given that this is Memorial Day, how do you feel about the way it’s commemorated?”

Lots of them grew up in little towns that dot the country. Many of those towns had parades honoring their fallen heroes. The whole town would shut down so everyone could go to the parade and watch the floats and banners and bands go by.

That doesn’t happen anymore. I suspect it does in some small towns, but when you live in the Pentagon’s bedroom, it’s not really possible. Just under 50,000 people live in my zip code alone.

So they think, these military officers. They don’t judge, but they don’t really answer. People have mouths to feed and people need work and if a half-off sale means they get use the saved money to feed their kids a little better for awhile, then who are we to say no? This is a free country after all; how do we take that right away from them? It’s complicated now. It didn’t used to be so complicated. Or maybe it’s always been complicated and I am finally catching on.

My street is the best street in the world. We work together and we talk to one another and we all truly enjoy each other’s company. I think we’re all in that place in life where we’re figuring it out — what’s important in life: the peace you can create in your own head. My husband and I made a cornhole game set; it was all the rage yesterday, once people loosened up a bit. He won against everyone he played. I couldn’t believe it. Even our current colonel lost to him. I thought that was madness. But I was still thinking about how we commemorate it; are we doing the intention of the holiday justice, just sitting here on our butts and playing as the sun sets?

Finally, one of them spoke up. “I like this. I like the way we’re commemorating it now: with a barbecue, and kids playing street soccer, and others playing hop scotch, and tag. And how we’re here grilling, with a beer in one hand and a spatula in the other, sharing our stories and being together. This is what we fight for; this way of life. I know of no greater country in the world than America.” He wasn’t just saying that. I instantly remembered a friend of my family’s who had served in WW2 saying about Memorial Day, “This is what I fought for; for you and me, thank God, to be able to do this: celebrate. This is who we are. If I died serving in the war, and you didn’t celebrate your freedom on Memorial Day, I’dve thought, ‘why’d I bother?'”

Thank you.