My older daughter was toiling over an English assignment last year. It was an essay titled “Precious Moments.” Why, I wonder, is she having trouble coming up with a few hundred words on precious moments? Haven’t we, as parents, provided her with all the love, comfort, and material goods she could possibly need to construct a book of moments deemed worthy? As we discuss the assignment, I start to wonder if age lends a patina of value to our lives that cannot be measured or appreciated by our children. How to explain that, while our trip to Disney World was both wonderful and memorable, the very fact that we knew it would be those things somehow makes it a non-contender in my personal list of precious moments?
As I get older (and presumably wiser), it seems that it is the smaller, more humble and unexceptional moments that are precious to me. While all the usual suspects (wedding day, children’s births, anniversaries, etc.) certainly make my list, my truly precious moments are those that would probably escape the notice of anyone else, even if they were sharing the moment with me. As I watch my daughter ponder her essay, I realize how very fortunate I am to be able to list some moments without breaking a sweat.
1. Weekend mornings in bed with both of my children.
Noses in our respective books, feet entangled under the covers, and coffee by my side, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the hotness, closeness, and sweetness of their bodies, pressed against mine. I move to stroke their hair or kiss their cheeks and they don’t look up from their books, but murmur, “Mmmm… love you, Mommy.”
2. When my husband tells me I am beautiful.
Not as we are leaving for a party, or as I am applying the finishing touches of makeup, but when I am home sweaty and red-faced from the gym. When I am laughing at one of his jokes. When I am crying over the ending of a book. Or when I first wake up in the morning and he honestly seems to see the same girl he woke up next to for the first time almost twenty years ago.
3. When I ask for and receive forgiveness.
I occasionally have to face facts and admit that I am wrong, have displayed poor judgment, made a mess, or simply stuck my foot in my mouth once again. While I sometimes struggle with apologies, I never cease to find the forgiveness of those I love to be precious. I can only hope that I will continue to learn to be a better person and they will continue to excuse my inadvertent failures and faults.
4. The blessing of the daily grind.
After a day of working hard – whether inside or outside the house, with children or with adults – I am sometimes exhausted to the point of tears. But when the dust settles, the kids are in bed and I am relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine, I feel overpowering pleasure, knowing that I have the ability, the time and the means to take care of what is important to me.
5. A simple and unexpected touch.
A passing caress from a loved one while I am paying the bills. A surprise hug around the waist from my younger daughter while I am brushing my teeth. A friend, leaning against me or putting an arm around my shoulders. My mother’s unconscious backrub while we are watching a movie. I notice and take pleasure from them all.
6. My father’s special, between-the-teeth whistle.
A homing cry for my brother and me, it would call us back from kickball at dusk, swimming too deep in the ocean, and keep us from getting lost at the zoo. My girls will now turn to find my father when they hear that special, shrill call. I wonder if it is an instinct I have passed down to them and how far his loving whistle will guide and keep us through our lives.
7. Keeping and passing the faith.
One of the privileges of being a parent is being given the opportunity to earn and keep your children’s trust. I am reminded of this in a simple way, each time I get out of the car with my children and head across a busy parking lot. Without thinking, I lower both hands to my sides and am always rewarded with the feel of two small hands, reaching up to meet mine. Without a word or a break in stride, the three of us will head off – an unbroken unit of safety and trust, passing back and forth our special code of hand-squeezes that means I love you.
My children are old enough now that they can safely traverse a parking lot without my help. In fact my older daughter’s hand is quickly becoming larger than mine. It is inevitable that as my children’s hands grow, and they continue to change, so too will my precious moments. I know that the very nature of these moments – the spontaneity, the honesty, and the lack of sophistication – are what make them precious to me. These moments cost me nothing, but their worth shapes and determines my life and my being. In the end, my daughter finished her “Precious Moments” essay with the expected eleven-year-old experience. I don’t suppose it will be an assignment next year. Perhaps I’ll sneak it in as extra credit.