- Family and Parenting
“Extraordinary magic is woven through ordinary life. Look around!”
Amy Leigh Mercree
Ordinary gets a bad rap and it shouldn't. The everyday ordinary of our lives is also the cement for our futures
Human beings are a strange lot.
We begin in early childhood, mostly trained by our parents, to look forward to special days.
We get excited because the holidays are approaching. We start planning weeks in advance for Thanksgiving and for many people, months in advance for Christmas.
Probably until our 30s..we look forward to each birthday because, in our minds, the coming of another year signifies that we've reached “adulthood”, that mysterious part of life which seems to offer so much promise. And yet once we actually get there, we look back and wish we could be young again and had more time.
We are always in a hurry to get to the next excitement, the next milestone, the next major event. Our memories seem crowded with fireworks and parades from July 4th celebrations and scary costumes and carved pumpkins from Halloween's long gone.
We look back fondly to proms and old boyfriends and keep old corsages pressed in a scrapbook. Reminders of those times we couldn't wait to happen.
We have photographs on walls and albums full of pictures of weddings and receptions and showers to remind us of a special time.
I sometimes think that perhaps the reason so many people fear the idea of dying might have to do with the fact that its permanent and once it happens, there is nothing else to look forward to. No more big deal days to think about and plan for and get excited over.
While there is certainly nothing wrong in having memories of the big events or looking forward to the big deal days...we human beings sometimes forget to pay attention to the ordinary times...the ordinary days.
Those ordinary things are sometimes easy to miss and easy to forget because they often happen when we are anticipating something more important. And lets face it, they are part of our daily grind, our daily routines. And they are average in a world of above average days. But they are, nevertheless, and in their own right, a big deal.
Our lives are well stocked with ordinary things but I believe we take them for granted as we go about our days. And these ordinary things are what should sustain us, give us hope, make us smile, and fill our hearts with joy and yet so many of us miss them because we are too busy to notice that they are right there, in front of us. They are almost always free and there for the taking.
There are sunrises and sunsets every, single day of everyone's life and the beauty of both can sometimes be breathtaking and for certain, a reminder that something larger than any one of us, exists.
There is the sparkle of sunlight on crisp snow making the snow appear to be laden with diamonds. And even while we are bemoaning yet another snowfall, there is an almost audible gasp as we take our cameras to capture what we've seen dozens of times yet still find amazing.
There are leaves falling in an abundance of autumn's colors and crunching underfoot as we walk thru them and rake them and make piles and file into them.
There is the roar of the ocean as waves crash to the beach and that feeling of endlessness that goes with standing there looking at the sea which seems to never stop.
As a little girl, going to Florida every summer with my parents, I used to stand on the beach of Miami and think about all the people that the ocean could take me to someday. I used to wonder how far I would have to swim to find someone from a different country and when I saw a ship out on the water, I thought about where it was going and how long it would take to arrive at its destination. But mostly, I was mesmerized by the power of the ocean and its secrets hidden well below where I could not see.
The power of the seas is immense and reminds us of how the world has continued and survived and the true beauty of our seas is in knowing that no matter what has occurred on land over the decades, the enduring tides and waves have prevailed.
I find that comforting.
Some ordinary things come and go so quickly that our minds have trouble time stamping them into our memories. Some of them, from childhood, happened so often that they almost lost their significance and specialness. But its important to go back and try to remember the feelings which accompanied them.
I remember being tucked into bed by my Daddy and sang to and read to and hugged at bedtime and how funny that a repetitive, ordinary thing like that which happens to millions of children the world over, could still pull me back as tho it had happened just yesterday. But that simply, average, everyday thing impacted me and I know as surely as I breathe, that I learned love thru those simple gestures from my Dad.
I can still smell the house I grew up in. It smelled of Old English furniture polish and Pine Sol and bread baking in the oven. My mother was many things, some not so great. But she was an amazing housekeeper, cook and baker and an ordinary thing, which I am sure, most of us took for granted while growing up, would be the smells of home.
Several years ago, when my mother died, my eldest son flew home for her funeral. As he walked into my house, a house he had not grown up in, after kissing and hugging me, the first thing out of his mouth was “it smells like home”. That was an ordinary thing that I will never, ever forget.
I can recall how my babies smelled when they were first born. Its an almost visceral thing to me and I am sure every mother has that same ability.
Try as I might, I cannot recall how it felt to hold my children's little hands as they took their first steps. Yet I can easily remember sitting in the dark, with snow falling quietly outside, rocking my newborn baby. I remember the peacefulness and the connection with this brand new, tiny thing who laid in my arms, nursing and looking up at me with eyes full of trust and love. Oh my God! What most of us would consider an ordinary moment still has the power to overwhelm me with emotion and bring tears to my eyes.
The day to day-ness of life in a family which seem mundane, repeated and usual are the things that when I look back over my lifetime, make me see that I am who I am because of those things. I longed to be a better mother to my children than my own mother was to me and so I set out to do the little things I missed as a child, for my own children. They arent big deal day things. I would bet that my kids might not even remember most of those things, but I do. Because it was the doing of those things...the tucking them in and telling them to not let the bedbugs bite and the silly chocolate chip pancakes or the red lipstick kisses from Santa on Christmas Eve, that again, might qualify as ordinary, but in my mind, helped cement our family. There was the normalcy of getting up and getting off to school and the mad rush to eat breakfast, find their shoes, find their backpacks, make sure they had their lunch or lunch money, locate the hat, the mittens, the coats! "You're going to miss the bus!" All ordinary and boring, yet part of the fabric of family life.
I always beat myself up because I really didn't consider myself very good at the big deal stuff. I didn't do big deal birthday parties. Mostly because they were expensive and money seemed to always be in short supply when our kids were little. But I did manage to stick a Pretty Pony or two on a store bought sheet cake and have other Little Ponies sitting around the table for my daughter's 3rd birthday party. And when she was older, a "makeover party" for her and her preteen friends where they could use my makeup and hair products to do each other's faces and hair. When our son was heavily into Star Wars, the Millennium Falcon graced the table of his birthday party as the centerpiece.
I bought them lots of books. Ordinary in the most ordinary of ways, but special the way those sunrises and sunsets are because those books are enduring and now my grandchildren sit and read the same Berenstain Bear books that Uncle Pat grew up reading.
Our lives are continuous circles of ordinary days, ordinary things and ordinary words. Im not sure why or how I became so aware, so sensitive to recognizing those everyday things. I know that some people would say its because Im getting older. Which I am! But I have always been this way. As a young child, I remember one night being awakened by my Daddy and carried to the kitchen window where he could show me snow falling in our backyard. I recall being held in his strong arms and without any words being said, I knew that this moment mattered. It's a vivid memory. Almost scarily real. And that tells me that it had a strong impact on me and helped form and shape my view of even the most ordinary things.
There is peacefulness and acceptance in the ordinary.
Acceptance because whatever it is, it is that time, that moment and it cannot be changed and knowing that, brings peace. This is why people who are dying, often say that they are ready to go and are at peace. They have accepted that dying is the most ordinary part of living.
Ordinary gets a bad rap because we are a society which celebrates excellence and extraordinary and mega everything. And while Ive got no gripe with all of that...my heart will always be drawn to the ordinary.
The stuff life is really all about.
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin