Overwhelming awareness of this life’s sweetness


Grace and Whit have just finished two remarkably joyful and relaxed weeks with my parents on the coast of Massachusetts.  One day last week, I left Boston early in the morning and went down for the day to work from there so that I could surprise them at camp pickup.  My work phone has been screwed up anyway, and there’s wifi, so, I thought, why not?

It turned out to be a weirdly, unexpectedly difficult day.  I seemed to be clunking through the world, knocking things over literally and figuratively, Whit was entirely unimpressed to see me at camp pickup (“why are you here?  OK, fine, I’m going to bike home, see you there”), they bickered on the tennis court, and it was hot.  I was generally out of sorts.

The three of us did have a lovely dinner on the back porch in the cooling, beautiful evening air, and we walked to the ice cream store and down to the yacht club to look at the harbor.  This has become a tradition that Grace and Whit like as much as I do.  As we strolled home, Grace sighed and told me how much she loved beautiful evenings like this one.  The air felt soft on my arms.  Dad and I had a fascinating conversation about Walt Whitman (whose work I’m ashamed I don’t know well enough; I’ve already ordered Leaves of Grass) and Grace and Whit calmed down and got in their pajamas and Mum came home from her meeting and suddenly, facing my departure, I felt a swell of keen sorrow. I didn’t want to leave.  As it sometimes does, my life crashed over my head and my responsibilities felt heavy.

I tucked Whit in and he rolled onto his side, his eyes gleaming in the dark.  “I love you,” he said, and gave me our secret sign that means I love you.  “I love you too,” I told him as I stood in the door.  “I’ll see you on Saturday.”

I went down to the kitchen to say goodbye to Grace.  With the eerie ability to see into my thoughts that both she and Whit sometimes display, she gave me a hug, and said, “tomorrow, when you’re at your desk, Mum, just remember that I’m cheering you on.”  My head snapped back to look at her.  Only half an hour ago she’d been pouting that I wasn’t spending the night.  When did she grow into this empathetic, mature young woman who knew how to put what I needed first?  My eyes filled with tears and I nodded.

I hugged my parents and Grace walked me out.  She stood barefoot in her pajamas on the sidewalk and watched me get into the car.  I told her I loved her and she gave me our secret sign and then, as I turned the car on, she leaned into the open passenger window.  “Mummy,” she said, her wet hair wavy on either side of her face, “You’re my wonder woman!”

“Oh, Grace,” I said to her, shaking my head.  “I don’t know about that.  You’re my wonder girl, though.”

I was blinking back more tears as I drove away, and as the road turned left the whole expanse of the sunset came into view.  I gasped out loud.  The sky was striated with red, orange, pink, and I pulled into a parking lot to try to take a picture.  I couldn’t get a good angle so I kept driving, but I did take one of the fading light as I got onto the highway (ab0ve).  As it so often does, the sky acted on my spirit in an ineffable, undeniable way, and I felt the aggravation and challenge of the day ebb almost instantly away.  I thought of my parents, who had each been so fully themselves that day, of my children, arguing on the tennis court and yet appreciating the glorious evening and then knowing exactly what I needed at the end of the day, of this place I had so long loved.  I felt deeply rooted in the world, a sensation akin to the sturdy joy I’ve written about before.  My awareness of this life’s sweetness overwhelmed me, so sharp I felt it in my chest.

And watching the sun go down, I drove home.

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  1. Posted July 14, 2014 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    What a day for you. I love how Grace is able to be right there with you like that!

    admin Reply:

    I was pretty startled by it, to tell you the truth!

  2. Posted July 14, 2014 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    I call those sucker punch days. Obviously M’s a bit younger than your two, but she has had similar reactions to me this past year (like when I show up for something when she was expecting my husband or she realizes she has to spend the whole day with me instead of doing something else). It usually sets off a wildfire that seems unstoppable for the rest of the day and then . . . a pretty flower takes bloom in the yard late in the day or there’s a lovely sunset or moon. I guess that is a better way to punctuate the end of the day than more fire.

    admin Reply:

    I love those images – wildfire and then a pretty flower or sunset or moon. Yes. So true!

  3. Posted July 14, 2014 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    There is something about feeling the longing of a child, an emotional petulance that is out of the routine, is a precious kiss from childhood. You have, as that post by Mike Adamick talked about, kept a sliver of the light.

    Love to you and yours.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you … I hope you are right. I have been thinking about those slivers of light. xox

  4. Debbie
    Posted July 14, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Yes, clunking through the day, knocking things over both figuratively and literally. So relatable. Those days/moments feel as though I woke up unbalanced yet I tend to push against the grain harder through my day and everything from the response of the grocery cashier to my own children just do not fit and make me feel unstable. I love how it all changed and transcended into a beautiful realization that all is okay and you felt firmly rooted in existence and joy. I find when the calm comes back and the balance, it is the sweetest, most satisfying feeling. It is not easy to remember when in this state of being because the harder you try, the worse it gets, and yet, it is the TRYING that makes all of the difference.

    admin Reply:

    You’re so right – when I’m in that out-of-sorts mood there is no way in hell I’m going to remember how lovely things can be and then, whoosh, all of a sudden, something pulls me back. It’s wonderful. xox

  5. Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I always consider days like this to be the kind where life knocks you over, then offers you a helping hand up. Kids seem to be overwhelmingly intuitive, despite appearances, and have the capacity to sense more than they let on like Grace did here. I think there’s something about the pure love of family and the breathtaking reminder of a heavy sunset that puts life in perspective and makes us take things a little less seriously, and a little more sweetly.

    admin Reply:

    Yes, exactly. Knocked over and then lifted up again. xox

  6. Posted July 14, 2014 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this, on a couple of levels. As I woman who’s not had a child, my daydreams of childrearing include the sweetness you describe. It’s lovely to enter your life a little. Secondly, though, as a sometimes writer/blogger, I struggle what to write about, how to offer something that might be helpful to someone who might stumble upon it. You are teaching me that I need not struggle so hard. While I don’t need to do the Facebook thing of reporting what I had for breakfast, the bumps, the joys, the little realizations which are part of our day-to-day are pretty wonderful.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you for saying that. I often write a post and think, gosh, my life is REALLY boring … so I’m grateful to hear that even in the minutiae there is something that’s meaningful. xox

  7. Posted July 14, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    You raised those kids. Their empathy comes from you. Being real is how we raise kids who know how to give. I’m so glad you took in that big bold sky.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so, so much. I sure hope you’re right. I do a lot of things wrong, and I’m definitely very real!! xox

  8. Posted July 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I so know that feeling, that moment when you step out of yourself for just an instant and realize that this life is pretty damn awesome!

  9. Posted July 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. I feel like you put into words so many of the feelings I don’t have the words to express myself… thanks for that. xox

  10. Posted July 15, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I so admire how you can see the sweetness even in the hard and clunking days. What a relief that I am not the only one with days like that – I have been having a string of them!!!

    I finally have time to sit down and read and have saved your blog for last so I can devour every word. xoxo

  11. Posted July 15, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Yes . . . what you said to Brittni I was thinking too (less eloquently) “knocked down and lifted up again.”

    Beautiful writing here.

  12. Posted July 16, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous. The sky has been magical this summer, hasn’t it? *Almost* as magical as those moments when our children’s precocious empathy surprises and comforts us when we need it most…

    Even with my spotty (nearly nonexistent) internet up here in the mountains, I’ll still find a way to read your words…often, fittingly, from under a breathtaking expanse of sky…

    admin Reply:

    I love the image of you reading under a spectacular sky … xoxox

  13. Posted July 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    This is some gorgeous writing fully of very real emotions. Thank you for sharing.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you! I so appreciate your saying that. xoxo