Love-olution

ThankYouNoteThere is a house.  In the house lives an elderly man.  He is all alone with no one to care for.  So he cares for his house.

This is how our story goes.  The one my children and I have concocted from our observations.  Every day for years we’ve taken notice of this particular plot which sits on the corner near my children’s school.  It’s a simple house, probably as old as the man himself when he bought it to raise a family in.

The elderly man is, by all appearances, fastidious.  Mr. “F” we’ll call him.  His lawn is manicured, his wood pile impeccably stacked, even his  trash cans are arranged with great care.  I can’t explain why, but we adore this man we’ve never met.  Secretly, we offer blessings as we drive by.  ‘Have a peaceful day, friend.  Keep up the good work!’

Sometimes, the man’s comings and goings prompt us to add snippets to our story about him.  Like the day we saw a middle-aged man on the stoop accompanied by a police officer.  We allowed our imaginations to run wild with horror.  Surely, Mr. F had died and this was his son who discovered the body!  A moment of silence passed before we shared our mutual feelings on the matter – he never knew how we appreciated him!  Regret and sadness filled the car as we offered prayers for our secret friend and his family.

Exactly one month later, fully expecting a ‘For Sale’ sign to pop up on the man’s lawn, we saw him.  Yes, him!  Mr. F was alive and well and tending to his garden.  A shout of joy went up, followed by a bit of shame for our mistaken assumptions.  Our relief at Mr. F’s reappearance prompted my teen daughter’s suggestion, “We should thank him.  You know, for making us happy.  We could give him a compliment card.”

She is recalling a family practice that began when she was seven years old and was inspired by her own enthusiasm for the  holiday season.  So enamored was she of lights adorning homes at Christmas time, she would beg every night to drive around after dark to take in the glamour that is unique to the season.  Witnessing the joy it brought her, we felt compelled to thank the people who decorated their homes.

We decided to write anonymous thank you notes.  Armed with a simple notepad and pen, we’d drive around rating our favorite displays.  Then we’d scribble a note of appreciation, pull over, turn off the headlights, and sneak up to the mailbox to deposit our compliment card.  We’d giggle at our sneakiness, satisfied that we had made someone’s day.   Who doesn’t love a secret admirer?

In an attempt to resurrect the joy of spreading good will, we pulled over to Mr. F’s house and wrote this note:

“We love how you care for your yard.

 It makes us happy to see you.  Thank you! 

Love, A Neighboring Family”

We imagine that maybe Mr. F walks a little taller, bolstered by pride in his work.  And we, too, walk taller.  Not from pride, but from the natural boost that heartful giving generates.

I love spreading love.  It’s free.  It’s easy.  Everyone can do it.  Which has me thinking….wouldn’t it be something if this little blog, inspired by one little girl’s joy, inspired lots of other people to adopt the covert compliment card practice?  What if it created a….love-olution?!  What do you say?  Are you in?

Sibling Lovelry

When my son, AKA Beagle, was four years old, husband and I announced that baby number three was on the way.  “I want a brother,” Beagle announced with conviction, as if his wanting was enough to manifest a baby boy.  He already had an older sister so…..we broke the news gently.

“We do know what the baby is,” I admitted.  His face lit up with anticipation.  “It’s a girl.”  Instantaneously, Beagle’s head dropped with a thud onto the table in despair.  With face buried in forearm, he lay silent.  While older sister, AKA Principessa, danced in celebration, I attempted to explain to the top of Beagle’s head that we didn’t get to choose.

Silence.

I added sugar-coating like the fact that he would always have his own room as the as the only boy.

Silence.

I assured him that he’d be a great big brother.

Silence.

Then Beagle raised a single hand in the air, head still down, and solemnly replied, “I’ll be okay.”

Beagle was more than okay.  This is a picture of him when Peach arrived.  Could he be any more smitten?

As it turned out, Beagle and Peach formed a close bond.  He adored his little sister and she him.  Eventually though, the novelty wore off and he went his merry boy way.  I feared that their lack of common interests would prohibit a close relationship between them.  But when Peach turned six and couldn’t ride a bike without training wheels, Beagle stepped in.

It was a casual summer day when Beagle marched in the kitchen and accused me of negligence.  “I can’t believe you haven’t taught Peach how to ride on two wheels yet.  She can’t start First Grade on training wheels!  Leave it to me.  I know what I’m doing.”

Staunchly determined, Beagle grabbed a fistful of lollipops for reinforcement and headed outside.  Honoring my promise not to interfere, I watched from the window.

Like a pro, doting older brother ran up and down the driveway holding the back of Peach’s bike while shouting out instructions and encouragement.  Within the hour, Peach was riding solo with big brother running alongside and cheering.

Beagle strutted back into the house, chest puffed up, and declared, “Mission accomplished.”

I was reminded of that favorite story today, three years later, when I sat poolside watching Beagle teach Peach how to dive.  With characteristic patience and sensitivity, big brother devoted his afternoon to imparting this new skill.  All the while he exchanged secret smiles with me, each of us enjoying the process.

These are the kinds of moments that make my mother heart swell with joy.  These are the shreds of hope that restrain me when I want to choke the next child who fights with a sibling.  I need these reminders from time to time to balance the sometimes excruciating task of establishing family harmony. Like, for instance, several weeks into summer vacation.

Today I decide that I can rest peacefully, knowing that no matter how much my little ones bicker and compete, they do love each other.  When the rubber meets the road, they travel together.

I suspect that when I’m old and gray, and my children are grown, they will continue to have their differences.  They may even try to involve me for peacekeeping.  And I will sit back in my rocking chair smiling at their sibling lovelry.

You Can’t Judge Love By It’s Cover

June 17th happens to be Father’s Day which happens to be my oldest daughter’s birthday which happens to be my wedding anniversary.  Guess which one never gets recognized?

Husband and I had exactly two years as a married couple before baby number one arrived.  That amounted to one anniversary trip/dinner/celebration.  Had I known it would be the last, I would have set my sights higher than a Bed and Breakfast in Maine.

For years we’ve consoled ourselves with the mutual agreement that there would be no hard feelings about a triviality like a date on the calendar.  Instead of coveting time alone we would, forever more, share our celebration with multiple reasons to be grateful.  Nary a greeting card has passed between us on this date for 15 years.  But this year, my Year of Thank Yous, is different.  This is the year I may breathe my last.  And if it is, there’s a thing or two I want to say about the man who took me on for better or for worse.

There are times when I actually hate the man who so easily pushes my buttons – and I let him know.  To the credit of his pit-bull demeanor, husband can take it. Though I try not to abuse this fact, I appreciate that he is rock solid and nearly immune to the depths of my moods.  Which is probably why, although I didn’t know it at the time, I married him.  He is fearless in the face of….me.

This was perfectly illustrated from our inauspicious beginning.  Imagine if you will, a very tired me after a long day of skiing at unusually high altitudes.  My beloved invited me to walk on the romantic shores of Lake Tahoe while we waited for our ferry.  But I wanted to sit.  Seeing that I wouldn’t go easily, he started down the pier toward the beach without me.  As he reached the end, he began yelling  – demanding actually – in front of a crowd, that I come for a walk.

Here’s the thing.  I hate being told what to do.  HATE it.  Especially when it resembles antiquated ‘woman is subservient to man’s wishes’ logic.  So I reacted poorly.

I stormed down the pier after would-be husband, calculating how many of Deb’s Code Of Conduct rules he was violating.   Immediately upon reaching him I launched into a string of infractions, “How dare you! If you think for one minute that you can command me and I’ll obey…….”

After ranting for a while I noticed that he was smiling.  Strange.  He should be mad at me.  But instead he looks like the cat who ate the canary.  Why?

“Are you done yet?” would-be husband asked with amusement.

My response is difficult to admit.  I did worse than curse.  I did something I never had before.  But recall the level of my anger – at least a ten on the Richter scale.  Here it is…..I spit!  Right at his feet.  It was all I could think of to match the imagined disrespect he had shown me with his commanding tone.  I had no idea what would come next.

Beloved fell to one knee, right there on the beach, after witnessing my immense tantrum, and reached for my hand.  “Will you marry me?”

Gulp.  S*%t.  Oh, what have I done?!

It was years before I could share in the enjoyment husband had telling that story.  Needless to say, it was a humbling experience.  One that should have curbed my temper for good.  One that should have made husband run for the hills.   But, reader, neither has happened.

Now would be a good time, lest you get the impression from my stories that husband is some sort of saint, to let you glimpse the other side of the coin.  Husband has his warts too – one that a close relative of his wanted to be sure I knew before I married him.  Before our wedding date, said relative pulled me aside to say that everyone would understand if I backed out.  I paused for the briefest second then laughed mightily.  Perhaps this traitorous relative, like many, failed to see the magic in the union of a clap of thunder and a lightning bolt.  While we were having a grand ole time lighting up the skies, we were also scaring people it seems.

But we can’t worry about that.  The thunderstorms suit us.  As do the moments between the storms when the air is sweet and the symbiotic sounds of nature return.  It’s all good.  And not to be judged.  Because love is love no matter the packaging.

If the classic love poem read at many a wedding were a test, husband and I would certainly fail.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

It is not easily angered….

….If you have not love,

You are but a noisy gong or clanging bell.

Really?  Because at our house, there’s a heck of a lot of pots banging and voices yelling that could equate to the noisy gong in the recipe of love.  And yet, we still feel ok.

Don’t get me wrong, we try sweet and gentle.  Even pull it off on occasion.  But the transformation feels all wrong.  Like a prickly bush disguised in a rose-bush costume.  As time passes and rose-bush couples split up, husband and I gain confidence in our not-so-subtle happily ever after.

When I say to husband, “I love you because of the reasons I hate you, not in spite of them.” He understands.  He may look briefly as if he’s been slapped, but his hint of a grin assures me that he got my meaning.  He has the capacity to understand me, and I, him.  Isn’t that all we can hope for?  To be understood, appreciated, and loved just as we are?

After all these years I can say with confidence that husband is still my favorite person.  And it’s not just because he took the initiative to locate a gluten-free Happy Anniversary cake (though that does raise his stock.)  I just love him.  Plain and simple.  And I wanted you to know, in case it wasn’t clear.

A Moment In Time

When my first baby was born, my father would come to visit so I could ‘get things done.’  He would sit for hours, rocking my infant daughter to her heart’s content – and his.  I would dash around them cleaning, cooking, and running errands.  Knowing that my baby was loved and cared for, I reveled in my productivity.

I cherished these stints of freedom to catch up – until the day I stopped for a rest and really saw the two of them.  Plopping down on a couch next to my baby and her grandfather, I noticed the joy between them.  With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the pair of them were free to just love each other – to experience the peace of a moment spent together in silence.  I envied my father as I convinced myself that this was a benefit reserved for retired grandparents and not for busy mothers.

Several years and a couple of children later, my youngest daughter, now 8, finds me lying on the floor stretching a tight muscle.  Quickly noticing a rare opportunity, she throws herself onto the floor next to me and sneaks in for a cuddle.  A previous version of me wants to peel her off and set her back on track for the harried morning routine.  But the ‘Live Like You’re Dying’ version of me cuts off the drill sargent in my head with a reminder, ‘Enjoy it! You may not get another chance!’

So I sink into the moment.  Wrapping my arms around my sweet girl, I whisper, “It’s so easy to love you.”  She squeezes me tighter and plants a kiss.  A flood of love engulfs us.  We lay like this in suspended animation.  Time becomes irrelevant.  Life becomes only this moment.

Eventually, voices of the family remind us that the clock has not, in fact, stopped and the school bus waits for no one.  Searching for a delicate way to break our bond, I say to my daughter, “If we stay here coveting each other then all the people who were meant to benefit from our presence in their day will miss us.  They won’t get to share the gift of you and me today.  We need to spread our love around.  We need to do what we’re meant to do.”  Without pause, without doubt, my daughter trumps my logic with her own wisdom.  “Mom,” she replies, “THIS is what we’re meant to do.”

Yes, baby, it is.  How are you, at eight years old, so wise?  And I, at the tender age of 42, am just learning these lessons that you know so well?  With regret, I review the scant amount of times I’ve stopped long enough for a child to slip into my arms.  I feel actual pain in my chest when I recall visions of me dragging a child by the hand with quickening steps.  I shudder as I hear scripts play back in my head, ‘Let’s go. Not now. No time. HURRY!’

I could drown myself in sadness over lost moments.  Instead, I vow to change.  Never a day will go by that I don’t offer a hug or ask for a kiss or speak the love words.  Never again will I be unapproachable to a child.  Never, will I miss the fullness of a moment spent in stillness.

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