last nights

The last night of summer is always bittersweet. 

I’m filled with a mess of emotions, so much so that my chest seems swollen.  The sadness of losing the freedom & ease of summer days with my two favorite girls.  The excitement of seeing friends & work family each day again.  The eagerness for the comfort of the familiar rhythm of “real” life routines.  The thrill of the return of daily challenges & creativity.  Apprehension at the memory of the stressful, fatiguing weekly workload.  And the amazing, heartwarming joy I feel every year as I fall in love with a new batch of 40+ babies. 

Summer’s return will come sooner than we think.  On that last night, we’ll look back over the year & see how time has flown. Our babies will be taller, smarter, and a just a little bit less our “babies” than before.  For a while, I will wish I could rewind and go back, praying for just a little more time.  Knowing that’s not possible, I’ll remind myself to love the moment I’m in.  

And so tonight, on this last night, I remind myself to be grateful for this night.  Love this feeling.  Celebrate this mess of teary-eyed smiles, nostalgic laughter, and school girl anticipation.  

This — these nights, these feelings — is the stuff life is made of, and it’s beautiful.

 

le deuxième jour de gratitude

Just over a month into my summer, I realize I’ve grown disconnected from my practice of gratitude.  Straying from my routines ultimately means straying from more than just that.  On the thirty-sixth anniversary of my birth, I find myself listening to favorite songs in the air of a cool summer night, enjoying the company of a thousand crickets.

As my eyes close, this iron table disappears, and the outdoor chair beneath me transforms to the familiar wicker rocking chair of my classroom.  Seated before me is a ring of eager, young faces.  “Gratitude Friday!” they remind me.  Submitting to their excited pleas, we commence the turn-taking.  I beam with joy as my students celebrate our weekly tradition, squirming on their feet as they wait for their turn, giggling with each of their friends’ personal thanksgivings.  

At last it is my turn.  Taking a moment to listen to my heart, I find so many things for which I am grateful.  

Tonight?  My backyard.  Music.  Crickets.

But there’s so much more.  

I woke up today.  And, God willing, I will rise again tomorrow.

Quiet moments alone in cool weather.

The rain that grows my grass and makes my flowers giggle and smile.

Old friends who remember who you were, way back when, and help you remember yourself, too.

Love, of all kinds.

Looking into the faces of my babies and seeing myself.

Hopes and dreams for the future, without which our lives would have no direction.

Bridges and breezes and beautiful, wide-open spans of water.

Stories, real and imagined.

Cardinals, climbing in my tomato plants and reminding me that miracles are real.

Afternoon drives with no destination.

Smiling with strangers.

Laughing with people you love.  

 

The smallness of my life within the hugeness of this universe.  

This moment.  Right now.

Aujourd’hui, je suis reconnaissant. 

 

Crainte

Fear. 

On my refrigerator, a magnet hangs.  It’s been there ever since my grandmother sent it to me, in a package amidst any number of other little surprises, more years ago than I can remember.  It says,

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” 

On most days, I forget it’s there.  But on those chance days that I glance at it, or picture it in my mind, or hear the words whispered between my thoughts, I let it simmer deeply.  I stir it.  Slowly.  Thoughtfully. 

What does this mean to me today?

Over the years, this magnet has pushed me to action again and again.   In the early days, it might have meant lacing up my sneakers and heading to the gym to try out that new class or workout.  It’s led me to ignore my butterflies and pick up the phone to make the phone call I’d been avoiding.  It pushed me to ask questions, tell the truth, try something new.  Put myself “out there”. 

Be vulnerable.

I would say that this magnet has given me courage, but it hasn’t.  Truly, the courage was there all along, buried beneath the fear.  Ma crainte. 

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” 

Forgive someone.

Reach out to someone.

Dare yourself to start an adventure.

Get out in the world and do what you’ve dreamed of doing.

Plant your garden, tear out the carpet, learn to cook.

Go back to school, go camping, go to Africa.

Sample the hot sauce, buy a guitar, start a blog.

Go to the doctor.  Quit your job.  Sell your house.  Buy a house.

Walk up to that person that you’ve been avoiding and say, “Hello.  Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

Tell someone you’re sorry, or tell them you love them.

Set a goal and invest in yourself.

Do something – anything – that scares you today.

 

Then, be grateful for your courage.  Be grateful for the strength you possessed all along.  Be grateful when you succeed and even if you fail, because either way – you did it. 

And then, do it again tomorrow.

le premier jour de gratitude

There is a picture that’s hung on the wall in my bedroom for as long as I can remember, even still today.

blessed art thou among women

I received Blessed Art Thou Among Women as a gift from my uncle about thirty years ago. I’ve often thought what an odd gift it was for an uncle to give his niece, especially one so young. It’s possible he thought of me when he saw this photo because the girl looks so much like me as a girl, but I’ll never know for sure.

For years, I’ve stared at her face and wondered what she saw. I’ve looked at her mother’s hand on her shoulder and her turned cheek, wishing I could just hear the words she whispers. I’ve never stopped wondering about these two. Never.

Forever, visitors have said the same thing, “Is this you? Is this your mother?”

“No,” I reply, “it’s just a picture of a girl.”

Today, it dawned on me. Is it possible that he gave me this because he knew he would die? Could it be that he gave me this everlasting memento, knowing I would never know for sure why? After all, in my unknowing, I’ve never stopped wondering. And my wondering will never let me forget. Because of this photo, my blurry, patched-up memories of him are anchored in my life. They are nailed to my wall.

Right or wrong, today it made a little more sense to me.  And for that, I am grateful. For this photo, I am grateful. For my memories, I am grateful.

Just as I looked into the giant, glowing sunrise this morning and felt energy swell in my chest, just as I filled my ears with the music of my daughters’ songs and felt my daily cup of joy brewing, I will look into this girl’s eyes and feel my heart warm with memories of an uncle long passed.  An uncle I barely knew and never understood, but one whose love still swims in the air around me tonight.

Merci, mon oncle.

à la prochaine