Dear Helen, Dear John,
So many of the best and most important things in life are made up of small, seemingly insignificant moments. After my dad died, when my sister was off track at school, she would come and live with me. I arranged it beforehand with my professors so that she could come to class with me because at that time she was too young to be left alone. I packed a goody bag full of activities for her so she wouldn't be bored and as soon as class was over, I tried to take her somewhere fun. Sometimes I would take her to the zoo or a museum where one of my friends worked as a docent. Sometimes we walked along the beach. Some of our favorite memories happened in the car when I was driving us to and from campus. "One green light, agh-agh-agh," I would cackle dramatically, imitating the Count on Sesame Street. "Two green lights, agh-agh-agh," my sister would join me. Each green light we had in succession along the way became more and more exciting. "FOUR green lights!!!" we'd shriek in delight, "agh-agh-agh!" Or, if we were unlucky that day, we'd cackle and count the red ones.
Nowadays I pack a goody bag for myself to keep me occupied while my sister is in class or working on campus. This week I've sketched a stuffed zebra head and an Emperor Goose at the mini wildlife museum in the biology building while she was in genetics, listened to classical music while I studied the paintings in the art museum while she was studying communications, soaked up sunshine and calm in the gardens while she worked, wandered the library while she was in tutoring, visited the planetarium and went to a piano recital while she was in the testing center, and read through everything else. As we walk together between these things, we talk and listen and giggle and vent. She is the sister I prayed for. It took eleven years before I got her. I was pulled out of school to take care of my mom the last few months of her pregnancy so Em could get here safely. I helped take care of her when my mom was in the hospital after her birth and all along the way ever since so when she called and asked me to come live with her until some important things for her work out, of course I came. She, along with my other siblings, are some of my favorite things... er, people... you get the idea.
Here are a few more favorite moments:
The time when the toddler son of one of my friends asked to be allowed to walk me to my car so that he could open my door, let me in, and close it for me like his dad obviously does for his mom. I wasn't sure he was big enough or strong enough to manage it (he was still in diapers), but it meant a lot to him- and sure enough- he did it. I'll never forget how honored and respected it made me feel. It's a gift my sister's fiance also gives me each time he uh-uh-uh's me to remind me to wait for him to come get my door for me because his respect extends to both of us.
I love the moment when an orchestra tunes before playing. That moment is akin to the joy I feel when I get butterflies in my stomach when I'm on a swing, head thrown back with my eyes closed- it's really too glorious for words. It was my favorite part of being in a preparatory community orchestra- that moment of connection when we were all on the same note, coming together- the expectation, the energy, the delicious thrill. I miss it!
Getting lost in books, walks, and thoughts.
Catching people being kind to other people whether I know them or not.
Butterflies landing on me; wild bunnies coming close, snuffling their noses at me as we enjoy a grassy afternoon; Parisian birds hovering in the air in front of me begging because, like me, they enjoy a piece of strudel now and then.
The soft sweetness of puppies. The treasure it was to have had a dog in my life who knew things without my having to say them. A dog with a crooked smile, a crooked tail, who walked like John Wayne and loved us like nobody else.
Tasting different kinds of fruits and vegetables and cheese. Helen, I think much of that has to do with you. You made it seem like a grand adventure and an oh-so-chic thing to do. Every time I do it now, I feel a little more grown up in the exciting way knowing I was growing made me feel when I was a little girl. I get an endless kick out of it.
Sunsets and dusk when the world calms down. Nights when the moon shines just above my window and sneaks in, dispersing the dark in my life.
The moment when learning and curiousity touch, sparking and jump-starting my brain back to life.
Marveling over how my hands can do and sense all the remarkable things that they do; how yarn can become shape and cloth; how movement of air creates worlds of sound in my ears through a drum when every other drum I know of ka-thunks and r-r-r-dumps.
I love the moments when I can take my time with things without someone watching over my shoulder. Whether it's swishing water and suds as I clean or savoring the smells and feels of cutting a melon, life is just better for me when I can take things slowly.
This week of celebrating some of my favorite things has done what the song that prompted it said it would: I don't feel so bad. In fact, overall I've had a happier week even having had to deal with some pretty rough stuff inside and out. It can be hard that life is a mix of good and bad, but it is a blessing too. It means that even in the worst of everything, there is good in there somewhere. I've experienced it often enough to know that it is true. Believing it is true is a whole nother challenge sometimes, but I know it's true. Knowing that helps me to see it. Seeing it and remembering it helps me to feel it. Feeling it helps me to believe it, and believing it helps me to live better. Living better helps open me up to life and to people and to opportunities I would otherwise decline or miss. It's a cycle towards happiness that can begin with incredibly little things- like celebrating stoplights both green and red.
One! favorite thing, agh-agh-agh. Two!! favorite things, agh-agh-agh.
Counting, counting, counting,