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Monday, December 7, 2015

When your moments feel small

Yesterday I saw a picture of my boys from six years ago.  They were together in the tub, Finn's tiny, newborn feet kicking the round flesh of Aiden's toddler belly.  Aiden's wide smile was pure delight.  He looked like a giant there, next to little baby Finn, like he could swallow him whole, and almost like he wanted to.

A few hours later I was tired and there was still a sink full of dishes and Benjamin kept getting up from his bed, where he was supposed to be sleeping, and running down the hallway.  So that little newborn baby who was just lying next to his brother in a bathtub took my two-year-old's hand, brought him back to bed and sat next to him, softly reading him a book that I swear I read to him just yesterday.  He instructed Benjamin to lie down and covered him tenderly with his thick comforter, kissed him on the forehead and left the room.

That night when they were all sleeping I looked back at the picture, the one with the soft skin and the meaty rolls and the wide-eyed innocence.  "It's going so fast," I said out loud, and the words surprised me.

Mine is a life of small moments.  I've had the graduations and the wedding and the three, miraculous moments when my children were born, and with many of my big milestone moments passed, and my kids' big moments still far in the distance (though too quickly approaching) I'm swallowed, at times, by a sense of the mundane.

It's hard to see the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.  Because sometimes I feel like I'm waiting around for my big reveal.  What I'm supposed to do or who I'm supposed to be, or the difference I'm supposed to make in the world.  But if I zoom out for a second from these small, everyday moments, I discover a big, beautiful forest of now, each tiny moment adding to its life, to its general hugeness.

When I think about my childhood these little moments blur together a bit.  From time to time my parents will talk about a memory I cannot, for the life of me, recall.  Our life together, in my childhood home, with my sister and my parents just down the hallway, feels a little faded.  But as the small moments fade, the love behind those moments only grows brighter, so that when I look back on my childhood I don't recall exactly what we did after school or how we spent our summer days, but I remember feeling unequivocally, irrevocably, unconditionally loved.

And so I realize that these little moments might not seem so big right now.  But one day they will be.  One day, all stuck together, they'll look like a big, beautiful forest with wide, familiar trails that I'll want to spend the day meandering.

Every morning Finn asks, "What are we going to do after school?" and I answer him, "The same thing we do everyday.  Play.  Make dinner.  Eat dinner.  Clean dinner.  Bed."  

It sounds so monotonous to me.  But one day the playing and the cooking and the laying of little heads on their pillows will look like the big, beautiful moment it is.

If I would only stop looking so hard for my big moment, I'd see that it's right here, right now.  It's lying down with my toddler as he drifts off to sleep and teaching my seven-year-old how to sew and smearing butter-covered hands over circles of dough with my kindergartner.

They're just small moments, but they're cloaked in big love.  The kind of love that's remembered, even when the moment is forgotten.

This morning I woke to a two-year-old who suddenly looked much bigger than the baby I expected to find, a six-year-old who says words like nonetheless and cornucopia, and a near-eight-year old who doesn't always wait for me to walk him into school anymore, but leaves me with a wave and a smile in the parking lot.

These little newborn babies of mine are doing things I never imagined.  They're growing up.  And if I can step back for a moment, separate myself from the mundane, I notice that the trees in our forest are really sprouting.  Nearly eight years of small moments, each one creating a masterpiece.  But it's hard to see the masterpiece when you're right in the middle of it, cleaning the spit up and tiny, chewed pieces of broccoli and small scraps of paper covering your floor.

I mean, it's hard to see the big, lovely picture when you find a brown streak on your bathroom wall that you are praying is chocolate, or when you just want to sit down in front of the TV at the end of a long day, but no one in your house will go to sleep, ever, or when you're breaking up the fifteen millionth fight of the day.

But each sink full of dishes, each frantic search for socks, each and every kiss good-bye and hug hello are small but necessary brushstrokes.  On their own they don't seem like much, but all together they paint a startling picture of love.  Even the sloppy and misplaced ones.  Even the tiny flecks you can hardly see.  It's not a perfect picture, but I have a feeling, one day, it will take my breath away.