Any poet, I think, would tell you that the little things are of utmost importance. It’s occurred to me lately that it’s the little things that we had once known, but have since forgotten, that are of enormous importance. Or, at least, the things of which we need to be reminded.
I was taking a walk over the weekend to enjoy the sudden appearance of beautiful weather in the Southeast, when, as I passed through the parking lot between our apartment and some of the adjacent apartments in our complex, I saw a plastic soda bottle stuffed full of leaves. It was lying in the midst of some branches with a sort of pool of leaves around it, and you could almost imagine the young child collecting leaves for his elementary school science project or something of the sort. In fact, as there are a lot of young professionals with families in our apartments, there were several children running around nearby on that sunny evening, and I imagine that it was likely one of them. I wish that I had taken a picture, because the entire event just seemed so carefree.
Similarly, I was walking around the apartment entertaining our daughter (read: having her on my shoulder because she didn’t cry there) and looked out of the sunroom window to see a little girl across the parking lot ordering some papers that she had been drawing on, or some similar activity, when her (I presume) mother and brother caught her attention, and she ran to greet them…totally forgetting about the papers, which proceeded to travel away on the wind.
This sort of makes me think of the time my parents gave me a balloon when I was very young. I took it outside and into the backyard of our rural home to play with it, and promptly let the string slip through my fingers. Away went the balloon. Much sadness and an improbable theory that perhaps a passing airplane would assist me by catching my balloon ensued as my parents gently tried to explain to me that the balloon was lost, but that there would be others.
I have a thousand other memories of childhood, and have occasionally written about them here, that obviously made a lasting impression on my life. Yet, I tend to forget them…that is, they aren’t in the forefront of my memory unless something specific triggers them. When they are triggered, I find myself blooming in the innocence with which life was enveloped then…a poetic sort of event. Since we had our daughter, I’ve been much more likely to recollect these sorts of things, because watching her innocently explore her new world leads me to relive what it was like to explore mine.
There’s something disproportionately large about the experiential gap between what we know and what we know with certain life events. When Karen and I were married, I was told by many wise people that marriage was a “lot of work.” I went into the marriage with my eyes wide open, knowing that it would be a “lot of work,” and prepared to dive headfirst into whatever that work might look like. About a year in, there were times when I thought, “wow…this is a lot of work!” What I had known only as a cognitive theory previously, I now knew experientially, and it was an entirely different level of knowledge.
I remember others telling me that being a parent is difficult, that it is wonderful, and those sorts of things. I knew they were meaning well and speaking the truth as they knew it, but I honestly always thought that they were being a bit melodramatic. Now, only six months in, I recognize that this is difficult! And also wonderful beyond anything that I could have imagined.
I’m glad that this incredibly difficult, incredibly wonderful way in which my life shifted sideways leads me to recall those more innocent moments, because I want our daughter to have just as many amazing memories from her childhood. Those are the memories that I have a role in making now.
There’s something wonderfully poetic about that.