Present (s)

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I was on my way back to class- after having scrubbed my soup bowl clean in our staff room sink- when I caught him at it. He had stopped to talk to a colleague of mine and the two shared a laugh or two; after which, Mr. Man skipped along down the hall with perfect timing, in flawless formation. Never missing a beat. I watched him, in awe. It was priceless, really. A moment of absolute bliss both for him and for me. I was transfixed, he- oblivious to anything but the rapture he was feeling in that given moment. No one to tell him “walk, don’t run!” No orders to find his place in the line-up, or directives to “stay in your spot”. No one to say anything. Just one to watch and one to move in such beauty of fluidity in motion- it near brought me to tears.

Oh, to live in such abandon.

It’s a brand new year. 2015- so much ahead, but only today to live. Only this moment. And this one- right now. Just this. Never more than we can handle- never less. Keeping us forever in the present.

And what a gift that present is.

Sure- it brings things like frozen pipes that reek plugged toilets.

I arrive home, finding myself in the upstairs bathroom shortly after school, in frigid temperatures no less- stumbling over snow and ice with five or six grocery bags in tow: only to find that there is no running water up there.  NONE. Youngest cheerfully informs us after using the facilities. And Husband then realizes that he will doubtless spend the next three hours sitting perched over stone-cold rads where he will hold a heat gun to them, moving from room to room- blowing hot stinky air down the grates in the hopes of melting some of that unforgiving ice. His Oldest Daughter will declare that indeed something smells. His wife- the one who turned the heat completely off just this morning, thinking she was doing him a favor (saving money), will apologize profusely.

And the gift gives on.

Sure. This adventure-filled present brings us other fun stuff- like cranky children, and chaotic suppers. Like spilled Bath and Body Works soap inside bathroom cupboards. And it calls to mind every other adventure our family has experienced in the not-so-distant past: from the minor (exploding pop cans) to the more urgent (freak flooding). Calls us yet again to the even more serious moments in life when one is immediately brought to attention- no more games, no more laughing. Just sombre tones, grim expressions.

Moments where life is abruptly terminated and time begins again in another Place of which I can now only imagine.

Can even these present moments be a gift?

Here is what I read today, beautiful thought if there ever was one:

“You have absolutely only one decision to make every day: how will you use your time?
New Years comes right after Christmas because the ultimate bottom line is:
Time is certainly one of the most precious gifts you ever get, because you only ever get a certain amount of it” (Ann Voskamp).

There are no guarantees.  For every moment (right down to the second) is a gift- it’s our present.

So for today: let’s use our present moments to embrace the life we have been given right now. That’s all we have. And it might be messy, might be imperfect- even unpleasant at times. But these present moments have been given to us as a gift- our precious present.

May we never take them for granted.

May we live them with abandon.

Enjoy the Ride

We’re driving.  The road, a seemingly endless stretch of gray in front of us.  There’s certainly not much to see on either side.  And I am bemoaning to the Boy the fact that all the leaves have fallen off the trees.  It had been so pretty, I say to him, just a week or so ago.  And now they’re gone.

It’s the rare afternoon that he and I can share the time together- he being busy with other more interesting boy-ish things.  Me, being the Mama- fully divided in fifty ways or more.  But today, it’s just us.  And we are driving home together.  No loud voices competing for attention in the back.  No radio blaring.  No screams of delight or agony from the Peanut Gallery.  Just the quiet voices of a Boy and his Mama casually sharing an October afternoon.

Earlier, I watched him with his school soccer team as they kicked-off to start the game.  They would later bring home the bronze for their school in a victorious finish to a great season. But at this moment: I am just watching, listening and absorbing it all.  Taking in this moment of my life- just me and my boy.

And while I drive, I think back to that chat I had with a Mom sitting next to me on the bleachers just a few short hours ago- about this and that and nothing of any real importance.  And I remember how it came up in conversation that she has only one child at home now.  All her’s are grown, she said to me.  To which I told her I am not looking forward to that time- I am not ready yet for nearly empty nest.  And she assured me ‘it’s all good’ and that when the time comes I will be glad there are no dirty dishes in the sink waiting to be washed.  Glad there isn’t a heap of dirty laundry clogging up my washing machine.

But I didn’t buy this line at that moment and I still don’t now.  I’m not ready for all that.  I’m still here.  And so is he.  And we are driving a gray stretch of pavement on a Saturday afternoon in mid-October and I can’t think of one other place I’d rather be.  A mom with too much to do on a Saturday afternoon who still has all the time in the world for her boy.  How much longer will I have this luxury?

And as I casually remark that I wish there were more leaves to see as we drive passed this wooded lot, the Boy says to me: “If you just stop focusing on what’s close up and look farther down the road, you’ll see that it really is quite pretty.”

And I know that he’s right- it’s all a matter of perspective.  And it’s not about how beautiful the leaves were last week or how dreary they might be right now, or even how gorgeous they will be again next year: it’s about perspective.  Seeing what’s around us in the moment we are living.  It’s about noticing.  And not wishing for yesterday or tomorrow, but holding on to today.  It’s about realizing that what is passed is now gone but tomorrow is soon on its way.  It’s about holding on to what we have today: right now.  And there’s nothing like it.  That gift of the present.

I stop my lament for the leaves then. I stop looking for beauty and see that I already have it within reach.

And I lean back and enjoy the ride.

It Doesn’t Get Better Than This…

So I might be a helicopter parent.  A little bit hovery with a tad of overwhelming to boot.  What’s it to you?

I will admit it: I’ve done it again. Overstayed my welcome and got myself kicked out of camp.  And all for the sake of saying one too many goodbyes and maybe re-checking that the Happy Camper’s got everything he needs for his week away from Heli-Mom.  (I realize that could be changed around to be read in another way.  Heli- for helipcopter, Peeps.  And maybe I am guilty as charged of asking, “should I help you with that sleeping bag before I go?” and then maybe guilty again of just wanting to get that comforting vibe from the unspoken undercurrents that “everything’s gonna be okay.”

So I admit it: I am that Mom.

The camp director actually came stridently to the van to ensure that I was indeed on my way out. (Love you Lil Bro’.  You’re time is a’comin’ one of these days.  Soon and very soon, you’ll get this gig.)  I assured him we were leaving.  A little miffed, mind you.  There was one other Mom still there videotaping her child as she stepped out onto the grounds for the first time.  Why didn’t I think of that?

I recently read that motherhood gets better.  So, if it really bites the big one for any of us right at this moment, take heart, me hearties: it apparently gets better.  Rumour has it that it especially gets better for those Moms and Dads who send their kids off to school in the fall because they no longer have children to watch around the clock.  One blogger I recently read from was exhorting those of us parents who still have to live with our kids 24/7 that school is the ticket to freedom.  Except, Honey.  I am that ticket: I’m quite possibly your kid’s teacher.  It might get better for her, but not like she thinks it will for me.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t really get any better.  If we think it will, we are fooling ourselves.  We are all on a journey of a lifetime and in that journey, we often can’t see what’s around the bend.  But we can see what’s right in front of our faces.  And it doesn’t get any better than that, my friends.  It doesn’t get much better than this very moment you are living.  Right now.  This moment is your present.  It is a gift.  Enjoy it for the complex beauty it portrays.  And see it for the potential it has to make your life rich and meaningful.

My present- my gift: this is what my life looks like right now.  And it doesn’t get much better than this: splashing in the pool (even if we take five-minute breaks from time to time to explain to the Fearless Foursome that others in the campground might not particularly enjoy their screams and whines for the three pool toys snagged for an afternoon’s entertainment; so would they ‘kindly keep it down’. Or else.)  Reading a book for the pleasure of it in the middle of the afternoon.  Eating ooey, gooey good s’mores.  Having smoothies for supper.  Heading to the beach on the sunny days.  Having time to watch your child do a back handspring.  Over and over and over.  Talking late into the night over a smoldering campfire.  Sleeping in on those lazy days.  Just because.

It doesn’t get much better than that.  This present is the gift of time and freedom.

But it doesn’t get any better when we get back to life routine either.  Because it is the very moment we are in at that given time as well.  Those moments: they will be the present when they return to us once more and as such, they will be the best moments we can aspire to.  They will be the present of familiarity and order.  Of routine and organization.  Every present is a gift.  It’s how we perceive the gift that makes all the difference.

The thing about presents is you have to receive them.  You have to take them for what they are.  They are something to be enjoyed.  Appreciated. Something to be used to the fullest- indulged.  Because the presents that are to come will one day be those moments that are right beneath our feet, those moments right underneath our noses that are calling strongly to our hearts.  Because living in the present is all we have.  It’s all we need.  And it is the best. It is the very best that moment can offer us as a gift.  For each moment we have to live and breathe is certainly enough.  Does life in all its messy glory really need to get better when what we have right now is already good enough?

I will certainly need to remind myself of this when I am running thirteen ways to Sunday in the dead middle of the Fall/Winter rush.  I will need to remind myself again.  When I am heading off to hockey games, lacing up skates for figure skating practices and sorting through papers in various lunch bags.  I will need to remind myself that it doesn’t get better than this.  Four healthy kids and a vibrant, beautiful life to live.

It doesn’t really get much better than this for those of us parents who are looking for a better day ahead.  Those better days are right now.