Friday, February 22, 2013

Moments of Wonder

I was sitting in the pool tonight as my children were swimming. My wife was upstairs in our hotel room resting, shaking off the effects of her rebellious digestive system. The girls were doing what kids do in a hotel pool, especially when there is no one else in it but them. They were creating elaborate and odd games that pass understanding. It was everything they wanted to be doing at the moment and, though it was getting late and we had yet to have dinner, I was willing to let them go on and on. It's our last night in the hotel and so their last night in an indoor pool. Who knows when we will next get the opportunity.

As a kid, I remember two vacations on which I was most excited to see a pool. The first was when we visited Boston on the way to Maine. That summer, 1975, was excuciatingly hot, hot enough to melt the crayons in our car. When we got to the motel, I jumped in the pool as fast as I could and stayed in it until I had burned most of my body in the sunshine. My parents, bless them, were loathe to take me out of the water as I was in love with it. I had never liked swimming in the St. Lawrence River, where we had summered until that year, and a pool like the motels was a wonderland for me. The second occasion was the next year when we stayed at the same pool but in much colder conditions. I remember that they let me stay in until my lips had turned blue and I was shivering out of control. I came down with a terrible cold shortly thereafter and spent the first week of our time in Maine waiting to be healthy enough to go into the ocean. When I finally was healthy, a hurricane was blowing in to shore and the waves were too dangerous for me to play in.

Still, I think back on both times with a fondness I reserve for those times in my life when I knew exactly what I wanted and got it. The sunburn and the cold, they didn't matter in the long run to me. I remember sniffling for a week and peeling for the other week but thinking that it had all been worth it to have had so much time in the pool.

When I think back on my childhood there is one other time of complete clarity. It happened when I was eight or nine years old. My best friend and I were out riding bikes and had pulled to a stop at the dead end of our road that overlooked the park down below. We were staring down into that park, reveling in the perfect shaded summer light through the trees, when I said to him, "this is great. This is about as happy as I have ever been." I may have said something like, "our lives are really great." It was a moment of wonder the likes of which don't come every day to a man like me (or a child like the one I was). Those moments, I knew even then, were to be cherished.

And then there was tonight as I sat in the pool watching my girls. I didn't have to be anywhere. There was no schedule. My wife was resting upstairs. The girls were completely happy. There was no risk of sunburn or head colds. All that I knew in that moment was that this life I lead is good. Sure, I weigh too much right now, I don't have enough money to do all the things I would like for my family, the teaching profession I'm in is collapsing under the weight of mismanagement and false prophets. There are all sorts of problems, but sitting in the pool, none of them had any bearing on my life. I was just a man blessed with two deliriously happy children splashing away in an indoor pool at a hotel where we were staying for vacation.

Even as a kid I knew that moments like that are rare, that they are hard to come by. I get that now too, but I have a suspicion that they are only hard to come by because I make them hard to come by. If I choose to look at my life in the terms with which I framed it today, I would imagine that almost every moment is a wonder.

It's as simple as choosing how to look at things. And to that I say, write on.