Thursday, May 16, 2013
Counting My Pennies
Cruz has been changing a lot lately, growing more boy and less baby all the time, and constantly surprising us with the things he knows, remembers, and thinks to say at the best times. He has always been so game for trudging through the bits and pieces of this life with us, and his ability to embrace and soak up his surroundings, no matter where he is, has challenged me to do the same so many times. I watch him and am overtaken with awe at his sweetness. The way he watched Charly's every move at the playground on Sunday, smiling from ear to ear at the chance to play with his friend. The way he closed his eyes tight and stretched his ear to his shoulder, all the while trying to be brave as our neighbor's dog gave him kisses on his face. The way he wraps his legs around my waist as I rescue him from the top of the stairs in the morning, this little figure with disheveled hair standing there in the dark holding his water cup, his baby, and sometimes a puzzle piece, race car, or spoon, depending on what he chose to bring to bed with him the night before. These small little snapshots of raising him evoke so many different emotions, emotions I've learned come with the territory of motherhood. A mix of a overwhelming happiness, a humbling thankfulness, and a aching twinge of sadness knowing how quickly these moments slip away and fade into new moments.
Writer, Annie Dillard, compares these free surprises to pennies on the sidewalk and says in an essay called, "Seeing", that "the world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand." These moments are uniquely ours, strewn across a life that is full of other reminders that have the power to overshadow the sweet ones. These reminders of the reality we live in are constantly present, but instead of sticking out like pennies on the sidewalk, they sort of slip together into a fog, making it hard to see the pennies. Sometimes, I get sad thinking about how many pennies I miss or fail to see because my sights are focused on something else. Dillard says, "It is dire poverty indeed when a man is too malnourished and fatigued to stoop down and pick up a penny."
But then I remember that the reason surprises are surprises are because they are unexpected and evoke a sudden feeling of wonder or awe. If I surprised Beau with a Big Green Egg for his birthday every year, he would come to expect it or look for it every year and over time, even with a Big Green Egg, it would lose its luster. These pennies of motherhood, the moments when I'm overwhelmed with wonder and awe at this boy I created, occur in the midst of the regular, routine, and reality, and remind us that the clock ticks in moments, not minutes.
Motherhood is hard, and sometimes, it feels like the foggy realities outweigh the pennies. My nerves get frayed, my patience wears thin, and it's easy to dwell on everything that's undone or out of order. A penny is worth just one cent, after all, hardly enough to keep the boat afloat, the laundry done, and the bills paid. But then I'm reminded that it's not really about how many pennies you collect, but how you strive to see them. Dillard says, "if you cultivate a healthy poverty, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have bought a lifetime of days."
So, I wait. I trudge through this life and wait to be surprised with moments of wonder and awe. Responding to Cruz's fifteenth, "Why?" only this time stopping and noticing how brown his eyes have gotten. Feeling how his hand fits in mine as we look both ways before crossing the street. Watching him concentrate as he takes his time climbing up the ladder at the playground. These are my pennies and they have bought me a lifetime.