Moments in Time
"I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting
it done a little less."
-- Anna Quindlen
Cleaning out my parents' condo brought it all home to me.
How, when you're gone, all that remains for the living are the
(hopefully) treasured memories and evidence of a life filled with
rich moments that will be savored always, like long-simmering
chicken soup. That time of sorting things out was a powerful experience
for my brother, Jeff, and for me. For instance, there was the
incident involving the "Stupid" vases
Back then, my brother and I hadn't been close for years. Blame
it on distance, circumstances, whatever. Tackling the condo, however,
was something we had to do together whether we liked it or not.
This was the only window of time to find a way to agree on what
I would take and what he would take. We dove into the task with
haste - both of us wanting to get the job done as quickly as possible.
Completing our survey of the furnishings of the den, we turned
the corner into the dining room. A pair of Steuben vases was sitting
on opposite sides of the breakfront. Jeff had always called them
the "stupid" vases because he never could remember the
proper nomenclature. We knew that these were valuable. Neither
of us wanted to seem greedy, but they were awfully nice.
"I'll tell you what," he said;
"you take one vase and I'll take the other."
"No," I replied, "they're more
valuable as a pair."
We just looked at each other, tears forming, terribly aware of
what we almost threw away. We too are more valuable to each other
as a pair. Standing there in that dining room we realized that
our relationship was still there for the re-taking. Too often
families can become estranged as they tackle the job of divvying
up a parent's estate and we suddenly understood that the value
of the "stuff" didn't matter as much as the value of
being siblings, united.
That was three and a half years ago, and neither of us has forgotten
that instant in time.
Life is created moment by single moment and thus we're always
presented with fresh chances to start anew. (Note: You don't have
to wait until New Year's Day.)
But we do have to recognize the opportunities inherent in the
present moment. We need to be conscious and aware that we're creating
the experiences for which we'll be remembered. Especially the
small, seemingly insignificant ones.
When my brother and I look back at our childhood, we first recall
those times that we, as a family, laughed the hardest. Next we
try to call up the details that seemed so ordinary then, but provide
the tickets to the best memories now, like the pottery ashtray
I made for my mother in third grade. As I handle that ashtray,
I can suddenly "see" my mother reading a book in bed,
tapping the ash from the one cigarette she allowed herself daily
back then, into my misshapen little gray and white glazed bowl.
I can sense how relaxed and comfortable she was in those moments
and that recollection feels like a gift.
These are the kinds of memories of my parents I hold close, and
they're the kinds of memories I want to leave for those who come
behind me. Of course there are more things I now want to know
about my mom and dad; simple things I wish that I had thought
to ask them.
But I have been learning recently that I can actively create
and organize "future" recollections so that my children
and their children won't have to search for me in what is left
behind. I can do this by focusing more on what Anna Quindlan calls
the "doings" of our lives and less on the "getting
it done." It's true that when my son and daughter were young
there were hundreds and probably thousands of getting it done
lists. But now I want to change my focus.
I want to do it starting this holiday season. In the midst of
the traveling and daily running around, in the midst of the buying
and wrapping and cooking and visiting, I want to make an effort
to recognize what makes this year's season, and each of us, unique.
Even, and especially, in our most ordinary of moments.
I want to take pictures of the hours between events - not just
the Chanukah and Christmas Eve celebrations with our families,
but the hours of car riding in-between. Not just the beautiful
dinners on the table, but the preparations leading up to those
meals. I want to journal and blog about the interstices of our
lives and not only the main events so that interested readers
down the road can understand and participate in my journey.
To me, that is the essence of appreciating each moment. It's
being aware that it's all we have, not just for now, but forever.
In each moment in time we have all that is and the seed of what