Thursday, October 2, 2008

My own "If you build it, he will come" moment

M's parents have a good friend who gave me a plastic swizzle stick giraffe years ago. Miriam, do you read here? Do you remember this giraffe? Do you know it's been sitting on the ledge in our china cabinet for seven years?

September 29, 2008, a few minutes before candlelighting

Sooo last year already.


The holiday was minutes from beginning; our friends were minutes from arriving; I wasn't ready. I wasn't close to ready. Luckily, these enroute friends are the best kind of friends: the good-humored kind, the never-stand-on-ceremony kind, the also-parents-of-a 2.5-year-old kind. So I knew it would be okay if I was still setting the table as they arrived. I took my time getting the table ready. I filled the green glass apple bowl that I love so much with honey and I set it on the green and yellow apple-patterned glass platter that I love so much. I put two freshly baked challah loaves on the platter. I got down the little green glass apple platter that I love nearly as much as the large one and I set it beside its bigger cousin. I piled high the crispy bright slices of red apples on the small platter, and admired the beginning of the table.

E had been "helping" the whole time, of course. She watched me carefully arranging and just as I stepped back to appreciate the makings of our holiday, she added the giraffe. The giraffe is just a disposable drink mixer, but I've had him for years and he is very attractive to E as something she can handle while I'm puttering amongst the breakables. I had handed him to her to keep her hands busy, with the admonishment that "I like him very much, so be careful with him, okay?"

So I stepped back from the table, thinking this little arrangement was complete, and she darted up and added the giraffe. There! she said, very self-satisfied, and brushed her hands twice against each other and set them on her hips, in very good imitation of a caricature of a self-satisfied adult. The giraffe stayed on the table all night, adding his own benedictions to our new year's celebration. (Though his time was not spent only amongst the apples; he was also quite popular for cradling in two sets of stickly little two-year-old fists.)

In the orangey late-afternoon light that softly filled the room through the curtains, and amidst my anxiety about preparations, my exhaustion, and my little chatterbox companion, I felt time stop and really: I felt the strongest moment of clarity while staring at my amended arrangement. So clearly I saw those two plates. I had a thought in my head. It wasn't that I thought it; more it formed in my voice inside me.

this is the gift of the new year:

I saw the still un-set table, the challah that had formed more rustically than I had hoped, the still-a-little-wrinkly tablecloth that just minutes earlier, had caused me to lament if I'll ever be the hyper-organized kind of person I dream of being, the one who has time to iron wrinkled cloths, who has time to set the table in advance.

accept the imperfect.

I looked at the giraffe. My first instinct had been to say "no, sweetie," to remove him, to decide in such a boring, conventional way that he didn't belong.

embrace the whimsy.

Living with small children provides a lot of opportunities for whimsy, and so often I'm occupied with moving us along, completing the next task, cleaning up a mess, staying on schedule for bedtime.

So that's it. Two gifts, really. My voice should have used the plural, not the singular, but these are the gifts of my new year: accept imperfection, and embrace whimsy.

I thought about what a great little revelation kind of moment I had just had, how my mind and the circumstance had set me up with, essentially, two new year's resolutions. And I came back to full consciousness and tuned in to what my daughter was now saying just in time to hear her ask: Mama, now can I have something else you really like that I can hold?

Notice the little voice inside my head never mentioned as a gift anything related to the art of negotiation with my elder daughter. It never said spend your waking hours living a verbal soduku. Even magic voices know to quit while they're ahead. Pin It