It Takes a Little Time

I had a bad day last week. “Bad” is relative, of course. Someone else, somewhere, experienced a much worse set of circumstances. But, personally speaking, one day last week could have been better.

That day, the girls and I headed over to the Y for open swim. Swimming is such a fun, lifelong sport. Swimming with kids—that’s a whole other playing field, friends.

First, there’s the getting ready. Finding everyone’s swim suits, getting them on. Locating the heavy-duty canvas bag. Filling it with (clean, if possible) towels, sippy cups and snacks. Then outfitting yourself, which is usually a production.

“Mom, I like your blue bathing suit better.”

“Boo! Boo!”

“Girls, would you give me some privacy, please?”

“Mom, what a round belly you have.”

“Belly! Belly! Belly!”

“Girls…please give me some privacy.”

“Here, I’ll close the door.” Slam.

“Can you go outside the door, girls?”

“We love being with you, Mom.”

“MOMMY! Hold meeeee!”

So…there’s the getting ready.

On that day, we eventually arrived at the Y. The friendly staff checked us in. The girls and I slipped off our cover-ups. I secured a life jacket around Anna. Grace adjusted her goggles. We got into the pool.

Three minutes later… “Thunder! Everybody out!”

I looked at the lifeguard. “Really?” She nodded: Really.

“Why?” Grace wondered.

“Nooooo!” Anna protested. Roll of thunder, hear my cry.

“The pool needs to close,” I said. “I promise we’ll find another fun thing to do.”

“Really?” Grace asked, with the same disbelief I had just demonstrated to the lifeguard.

“NOOOOO!”

After leaving the Y, I began driving back home when another car, with a seemingly impatient driver, nearly made contact with us. The lady continued driving unsafely behind us for several miles. “Unbelievable,” I said.

It could have been a better day.

Glass Marbles 8-6-17

Luckily, the next day was. The weather was beautiful. Grace, Anna and I didn’t run into any unpleasant drivers on the roadways. We spent the entire afternoon swimming and splash-padding at the town pool complex.

After having a “bad” day, it was refreshing to have a good one.

I remember our first summer with Anna. She was about 3 months old; Grace was turning 4. Everyday life then was so much harder than it is now, this summer. I worried about having Anna outside in the heat, so instead of the pool, I took Grace to an indoor “jumpy place.”

She loved it, not minding the earsplitting noise of the machines that kept the inflatable castles, pirate ships and slides afloat. That white noise also lulled Anna to sleep against my chest. For me, though…my head throbbed, nonstop.

It takes a little time, sometimes, for family life to find its rhythm—for things to fall into place. I don’t know if anyone ever reaches the point where they say, “This is it!” and hang up an “Arrived” sign. Because often, there’s always something. Something to work through, or toward. Until things feel manageable, even good.

It just takes a little time, sometimes.

There’s a ‘90s song called just that, “Takes a Little Time,” by Amy Grant. I love this song; the girls and I often listen to it. (It’s on our morning playlist alongside Eric Church’s “Springsteen” and “Collide” by Howie Day.)

We’ve listened to it enough (and danced around the kitchen in our PJs to it enough) that we can harmonize pretty well on the chorus: “It takes a little time sometimes / But baby, you’re not going down / It takes more than you’ve got right now / Give it, give it time.”

Welcoming a newborn. Becoming a family. Earning a living. Building a life. Moving into a new house, making it a home.

At some point, maybe taking care of the person who once cared for you.

We fall into our roles, sometimes. Fall into our lives. Things don’t always make sense in the moment, right off the bat. We stumble; we struggle. We hold out hope for a rhythm.

You might know that my favorite book is “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. Mr. Maclean speaks to this rhythm of life in his book, especially when he writes, “To [my father], all good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, come by grace. And grace comes by art. And art does not come easy.”

It does not come easy, friends. It does not.

There’s an art to becoming a patient parent. An art to becoming a safe driver. An art to living life with grace—to choosing gratitude.

My Grace will be 6 this week. I remember the day she was born. I remember holding her, in awe of her. And I remember thinking, “I don’t know what to do.” What do I do?

I still think that sometimes. Maybe you do too. What do I do?

(Something else I think: Where did that time go? How did all that time get away from me…just like that?)

The truth is, each day is a leap of faith. You get up—you show up—you hope for the best, and you do your best. You work toward a rhythm.

Finding that rhythm may take a little time. So give yourself that time. And don’t give up.

Wishing you the best, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Cheers to Family, Memories and Bill Pullman

Did you ever see the 1995 film “While You Were Sleeping” starring Sandra Bullock? My sister, Jenna, and I love this movie. We’ve watched it together…quite a lot. It’s a sweet story, with endearing characters and the requisite happy ending.

Also…Bill Pullman. I don’t know what it is about him in this romantic comedy—his shaggy hairstyle; his T-shirt-and-jeans-kind-of-guy vibe; his earnest personality—but Bill Pullman, friends. Love him in “While You Were Sleeping.”

Jenna was in town this past weekend. On Friday night, I handed her a stack of DVDs. “You pick,” I said, ever the gracious hostess.

Jenna thumbed through the selection. “Spanglish” (Stanton’s favorite), “My Cousin Vinny” (a Minetola family favorite), “Manchester by the Sea” (I borrowed this one from the library)…“While You Were Sleeping.” Jenna held up the DVD featuring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman embracing, the Chicago train tracks as their backdrop. “Obviously, we’re going to watch this,” she said, adding, “Duh!” for good measure.

“Yes!” I said. “Bill Pullman!”

“I know!” Jenna said.

“Why,” Stanton wondered, not for the first time, “do y’all like Bill Pullman so much?”

Family movie night, friends.

Cheers 7-27-17

Every family is its own tribe, with its own culture and customs. The foods we eat, the vacations we take, the movies we watch (over and over again). When people from different families get together, it can be like different cultures meeting—worlds literally colliding.

I love visiting new places, seeing new sights, getting to know new people. And at the end of the day, I love coming home too. Who doesn’t, right? Your bed, your favorite snacks in the pantry…your beloved DVDs on the bookshelf.

Jenna and I don’t share the same childhood address anymore. But as sisters, we share myriad growing-up memories. You can’t quantify the value of having someone in your life who knows you and has always known you—struggles…inside jokes…favorite movies…everything.

At one point this weekend, Stanton, Jenna and I stopped by a local restaurant. We ordered a bottle of red wine. When our server brought over the wine and three glasses, Stanton filled them up. One of us decided to, “Cheers.”

(This is the hitch with creative nonfiction: Memory is not reliable. You usually can’t remember, reliably, all the details—for example, exact quotes, and who said them. You can remember emotions, though, and often powerfully. How you felt, why something mattered. In that spirit, then, I’ll finish this story.)

So one of us decided we should toast. “Yes,” the two others agreed. And we toasted to family.

We go out in this world to discover—to work—to, simply, survive sometimes.

The world isn’t perfect. We aren’t perfect. But the older I get, the more conscious I am of appreciating the good things in life. Of acknowledging them. Of saying, “Thank you,” to people—while they’re here to hear it.

Cheers…to family. To happy memories. To a sister who will always choose to watch “While You Were Sleeping” with you, and to a husband who won’t mind.

To the good things, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

On Second Chances

The girls and I were out and about when we bumped into someone we hadn’t seen in a while. This lady and I chatted for a bit, then said goodbye. At some point that day, Grace overheard me tell someone (Stanton, my mom, my sister?) that running into this person had flustered me. Our last conversation, hers and mine, could have been smoother.

“Why don’t you like her, Mom?” Grace asked.

Sometimes, I forget two things: 1) My daughters are everywhere, and 2) they hear everything I say. I also have the fear (which other parents might share!) that someday, one of my children will announce, “My mommy doesn’t like you.”

This fear compelled me to tell Grace, “I just don’t know her very well.” My 5-year-old accepted this response.

As chance would have it, the girls and I saw this lady again, just a few days later. We all stopped, and this time, we talked longer than all our previous conversations. We got to know one another better.

When the girls and I were alone again, Grace asked me why I was nice to her. “Remember you said you don’t know her,” Grace said.

I was holding Anna, the diaper bag and assorted “summertime with kids” paraphernalia (sunscreen, someone’s flip flop, a water bottle). But I paused. I thought about Grace’s question. And the real reason, the answer to her question, was, “I thought I should give her a second chance.”

“A second chance? Why?”

I also have the fear (which other parents might share!) that someday, one of my children will announce, “My mommy doesn’t like you.”

My daughters and I started walking again. I don’t remember the rest of our conversation, verbatim. What I do remember is, I explained to Grace that people make mistakes sometimes. And I included myself as one of these people.

It’s possible that I was wrong about this person. Perhaps I had misunderstood her during one of our previous interactions. It’s true that I didn’t know her very well. Why not give her a second chance?

Our first instinct, many times, in many of our interactions, is to deflect blame. To preserve our good sense of self. We don’t usually consider, “You know, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s possible that I’m wrong.”

I thought about the second chances in my own life—all the second chances people have given me. Growing up, there were lots of times I could have been a kinder daughter, a more involved sister, a better friend. My family, and those like family, gave me multiple second chances.

The same is true for my husband—multiple second chances, friends. During all our time together, I’ve been caring and patient, and I’ve also been thoughtless. I’ve said things, at times, that I knew were hurtful. Every time, I hated myself afterward, and every time, Stanton forgave me. The gift of another chance—or, simply, love.

I read once that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship for more than a minute probably would disagree. Love, I think, is saying you’re sorry. Love is second chances—trying again—moving forward, together.

Love is acknowledging, “Maybe it’s me; maybe I’m wrong.”

A few days ago, Grace hosted her very first lemonade stand in our front yard. Earlier in the day, we bought supplies at the grocery store: lemonade mix (I was happy to see my childhood favorite, Country Time, still on the shelf!), cups and a sheet of yellow poster board. We were going to hold it on Saturday morning, but Grace couldn’t wait—so we moved it up to Friday afternoon.

July 11, 2017

“Everything free, tips happily accepted” I wrote on the yellow poster board. Grace added “Grace & Anna :)” underneath.

“’Miley face!” Anna exclaimed.

A bunch of neighbors happened to walk by Grace’s lemonade stand that afternoon, and some thoughtful friends made a point to come by. Many of them presented Grace with their spare change, which Grace delightedly collected in her front shirt pocket. It was a wonderful experience.

Grace earned about $8 in tips—a fortune for a 5-year-old. Later, when Stanton got home from work, her eyes sparkled as she regaled him with the story of her successful lemonade stand—so successful, in fact, that there was not even a full cup left for him to sample.

Looking at my family in that moment—Stanton, Grace and Anna—the three of them happy and healthy, and simply enjoying being together—I felt the gift of second chances in my life. I felt grace. For all the times I could have been more loving, or less judgmental…what a gift to be part of this.

Family. Love. This life.

For all the second chances people have given me, certainly I could give some too.

“You’ll always be the miracles that make my life complete.” (George Strait)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Measures of Success and MUCH

Anna, our 2-year-old, has a knack for making Stanton and me smile. First, like many 2-year-olds, she’s a ball of energy, up for riding her new trike around the neighborhood one minute and practicing her t-ball swing the next. She’s a lot of fun. Throw in her big dimples and mischief-making grin, and we can’t help but smile.

We tell both girls, often, “I love you.” Grace replies with, “I love you too,” while Anna merely smacks her lips at us—kiss. When we say, “I love you so much,” Anna has her own shorthand for this expression too: “Much!”

In the morning, as Stanton is heading out, Anna scurries over to him, wraps her little arms around his leg and declares, “Much!” She accompanies her sweet farewell with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch-coated smooch to his crisp dress pants. Sticky kisses to clean clothes—the price we pay for the privilege of such wholehearted love.

As I was writing this piece, this Emerson quote popped into my head (bold emphasis mine):

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Anna’s “Much!” expression, and her good-bye kisses to Stanton, made me think of this quote. Here, Emerson is giving us his definition of success: laughter, strength of character, gratitude, positive energy, service. All these things, of course, can’t be measured—at least, not easily.

It’s easier for us to measure “success” with numbers (we think). When we’re young, we take tests at school that assign us grades, scores and percentiles—how well we did on the tests. When we’re older, we think in terms of hourly wages, salaries and project fees—how good we are, our value to a company.

Life requires some level of quantifiable measurement. Test scores and, later, salaries work toward that objectivity. Unfortunately, numbers leave little room for bigger pictures, so to speak. They can’t tell us when a student arrives at school on an empty stomach, thinking about hunger instead of multiple-choice questions. They can’t help us understand why firefighters earn an average of $47,000 annually, while political strategists can take home six figures.

Sticky kisses to clean clothes—the price we pay for the privilege of such wholehearted love.

Stanton volunteers as a coach for Grace’s preschool soccer team. Yesterday, I was scheduled to fill in for him at the weekly soccer practice because he had a work commitment. I joked with Grace, “You can call me Coach, all right?”

Grace smiled and said, “I’m going to call you Mom.”

Both my daughters teach me so much. In that moment, I realized that whatever we might accomplish in our lives—whatever titles we might answer to, whether Coach, or Doctor, or Mayor, or Pastor, or Professor—we’ll still answer to Mom, or Dad, or Aunt Jenna, or Uncle Brian to the handful of people in the world who mean the most to us.

And this handful of people, these kids of ours… Chances are, they’ll be the ones least impressed by our SAT scores (if we even remember them), diplomas and W-2 forms. In my experience anyway, this is just how life works.

Measures of Success Picture 6-13-17

When I was growing up, my dad won various awards from his company for his work. Once, our hometown newspaper featured an article about my mom, a teacher, for developing a “try other things besides TV” educational program. I have so much respect and appreciation for both my parents.

When my parents and I talk, though, what we talk about most are all the times we had together. The funny moments, the family vacations, the movie quotes that have become part of our family lore. (“Well, they say geniuses pick green. But you didn’t pick it.”) The awards and newspaper articles don’t come up.

I imagine the same, or something similar, is true for you and your family too.

A few years ago, I read this article on CNN’s faith blog, regarding “What people talk about before they die.” The article has stayed with me all this time. The author, a hospice chaplain, answers the question her article poses: “Mostly, they talk about their families.”

She goes on to add, “They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave…They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not. And sometimes, when they are actively dying…they reach their hands out to things I cannot see, and they call out to their parents: Mama, Daddy.”

This article speaks to what we remember on our last days. We remember our families. We remember “Much!”

I was reading the book “Fancy Nancy: Stellar Stargazer!” to the girls one day recently. In the story, the title character and her lovable little sister, JoJo, pretend to be astronauts and blast off to explore the moon. Afterward, Grace announced she would like to be an astronaut when she grows up.

“Sounds great,” I said. “You’ll be a wonderful astronaut.”

Maybe Grace will be an astronaut someday. Maybe she’ll change her mind, as 5-year-olds often do, and embark upon another path instead. Stanton and I will encourage the girls to do their best in whatever interests them.

I’ll also encourage the girls to make time for the ones they love. To sit down to dinner with their families. To celebrate their friends’ weddings. To take trips, just because. Because…I know that moon landing will be awesome.

And I’m pretty sure, too, that the moments they’ll remember with the greatest joy—the moments that will carry them through their darkest days, and give them peace on their final days—are the ones like when a little person wraps their arms around you, smears a Cinnamon Toast Crunch kiss on your clean clothes and declares, “Much!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

At Home in New York: One Year Later

Stanton, the girls and I have called New York home for about a year now. I feel as though I spent the beginning of our time here—summer through spring—in a slightly frazzled state. Moving, getting to know another city, enrolling the girls in school and activities, trying to write as much as possible, finding our house—there were a lot of, um, moving parts. 🙂

But summer is upon us once again, and things feel as though they’re in a good place. We love the sweet town we’re in. We especially appreciate its walkability. It’s so nice to simply go outside and enjoy the nearby nature trail, or walk (Stanton and me), bike (Grace) and stroller over (Anna) to local shops and restaurants. One morning recently, the girls and I had such a good time just walking over to this local park, and hanging out.

Of course, that was right after we stopped by Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee (me) and donuts (all of us)… #healthylivingfail

1_Park

The girls have been asking Stanton and me for a pet—specifically, a puppy. Their pleas haven’t yet persuaded us, but our next-door neighbors offered up a great middle-ground solution: babysitting their puppy from time to time. We’ll see how that goes, friends.

We closed on our house a couple of months ago. My friendly yoga instructor recommended her friend, a wonderful Realtor, to us—it is a small world. We’re so thankful to have found our home.

Here are a few pictures.

2_Front Porch

We love our front porch. My mom and dad kindly passed along their not-needed-anymore wrought-iron furniture to us, and it’s allowed us to really enjoy this outdoor living space. Many a morning, I find myself reading “Madeline” or “The Very Busy Spider” to the girls.

3_Family Room

We still need to find (and/or unpack from the many boxes still in the basement) some additional art and décor for the family room. So far, though, we very much appreciate its cozy vibe. Speaking of passed-along furniture, the dining-space set once belonged to Stanton’s grandparents. We are grateful to be stewards of this beautiful family legacy, which traveled amazingly well from Texas to New York.

4_Sunroom

Possibly our favorite part of our home is the sunroom/breakfast nook, nestled behind the kitchen. When family and friends visit, everyone instinctively gathers here. I happened upon the table and benches in a local furniture store, and they’ve become the perfect spot for the girls to eat, color and ask me over and over if we can please get a puppy today.

Lately, the girls have been having so much fun in the backyard. Yesterday after a Fancy Nancy-themed tea party, Anna worked on her T-ball swing. Toddlers: The busiest among us.

5_Backyard

While Stanton was traveling for work soon after we moved in, I enlisted my dad to help with some around-the-house projects. Ever the comedian, he called, “Hey, Melis, look at this!” as he pretended to struggle with hanging curtains. Thanks again, Dad. 🙂

6_Dad Curtains

One of the things I most appreciate about this part of the country, the Capital Region of New York, is the beautiful nature all around us. On our little street alone, there are towering trees; evergreens abound and provide lush color all year. I’ve said to family and friends that being here is a literal breath of fresh air.

We’re lucky that so many loved ones have already come to visit with us. One of my favorite moments from our first year here was this September day, when Stanton’s mom and dad came to be with us. We loved apple picking at Indian Ladder Farms, catching up and simply taking in the splendor of the Helderberg Escarpment.

7_Indian Ladder Farms

The first time I laid eyes on this breathtaking slope—driving upon it from the Hudson Valley—I told Grace, “This is amazing.” Amazing, Grace.

Stanton and I do a fairly good job, I think, of keeping in touch with our families and hometown pals. We do owe our good college friends, though, some quality time. Folks in Virginia—we’re hoping to be your way later this year, or early next. ❤

The longer I’ve lived in the Albany area, the more I’ve learned how easy it is to get to other cool parts of New England and the Northeast from here. For example, Boston, Montreal and New York City are all about a three-hour drive away.

My favorite weekend getaway thus far has been to Manchester, Vermont. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been, friends, but this place is gorgeous. Stanton and I spent some time there for our nine-year anniversary and loved the glorious green mountains, quaint Northshire Bookstore and delicious local restaurants we tried (Thai Basil, Cilantro Taco and The Reluctant Panther).

We can’t wait to go back with the girls.

During this season in our life, it can be difficult to organize formal play dates. What have been so encouraging, though, are all the kind friends we’ve come to know through informal fellowship at our church, Grace’s preschool and the Y. We still miss our church, school and community friends from San Antonio, but love keeping in touch with these special people through Facebook, phone calls and texts.

In the winter, Grace took ice skating lessons at our Y. Then one weekend, she taught me how to ice skate at Empire State Plaza downtown. My 5-year-old daughter was so caring toward me, and patient—it was, friends, one of the best moments of my life.

After living in the South for 11 years, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy winter again. But it was fun, overall. Rediscovering all four seasons with the girls has been fun.

Many years ago in Virginia, one of the first things Stanton and I bonded over was our love of country music. Sometimes when we’re driving, we hear Tim McGraw’s contemporary classic “Humble and Kind” on the radio. I feel the song’s closing lyrics: “Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you…always stay humble and kind.”

We don’t know what the future holds. In this moment, though, things feel good. I’m very grateful.

I hope to pay that positive energy forward as we continue to get to know our community and surroundings.

8_Soccer Field Sunset

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

You’re Annoying, I Love You, Talk to You Soon: On Siblings

This past Easter weekend, I got to see my three siblings. We gathered at my parents’ house for the holiday. It was really nice to be “home” together again.

Josh still lives and works in our hometown; Jared is near Philadelphia; Jenna has adopted Queens as her hometown; and I’m now up the Thruway in New York’s Capital Region.

When the four of us talk with one another, we still refer to our parents’ house, the house we grew up in, as “home.” The main reason for this, I think, is because siblings—and any people in close relationships—have developed their own shorthand over time. No backstory, explanation or even punctuation needed. On our group texts, I often communicate with X’s and O’s (and the occasional heart emoji), while Jenna prefers the eloquent, “AHHHH!!!”

Another reason for the “home as parents’ house” shorthand is because for many of us, we learn what “home” means through our families: our parents and those who are like parents; our brothers and sisters.

Home is one of those words that’s more feeling than language. Kind of like when I say to Anna, “I love you,” and she replies by giving me a hug—“I love you, too.” Home is like a hug: You are pulled (back) in; you are loved; you are known.

No one knows us quite like our siblings do. After all, they had complimentary courtside seats to all our cringe-worthy coming-of-age moments. While reminiscing during Easter dinner, Jared couldn’t help bringing up the memory of my wearing bulky sports goggles during my middle-school basketball-playing days.

“Again, with the sports goggles?” I said.

Our parents’ 35th wedding anniversary happened to be the next day, Monday. Jared had suggested we recreate an old family photo as our gift to them, a la this Huffington Post article. So we did.

We chose this picture, which hangs in our parents’ living room.

Original Picture

Then we asked Stanton (our honorary sibling) to make the new memory. Which he did:

New Picture 2017

The four of us haven’t changed much in 20 years, have we, friends? 🙂

Josh, Jared, Jenna and I laughed a lot as Stanton (and Grace!) helped pose us for this picture. It was fun. Later, our Mom and Dad told us they loved it.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, for all sorts of reasons. Certainly, simply having siblings doesn’t guarantee friendships with them.

In my personal experience, though, I am very thankful for my brothers and sister. And I hope, more than anything in this world, that my own daughters have many happy, healthy years together. Stanton, who has three siblings himself, agrees.

Siblings had those courtside seats to all our awkward years. They also were the people we shared summer vacations, Christmas mornings and much more ordinary moments with—instant playmates for after school, the best kind of comfort when Poppy passed away. We have a shared childhood, history, love. We may let others’ calls go to voicemail, but we answer theirs. Likewise, we know they’ll be there for us.

Something that touches my heart is watching my girls become close to my siblings, as I have. Whenever someone brings up Josh, for example, Anna smiles big and says the same three words in slow, sweet succession: “Josh—big—nice.” Yes, he is.

Life is funny. When we’re young, we argue about who gets to ride in the passenger seat next to Mom, or who got the biggest slice of dessert (“That’s not fair!”). When we’re older, what we really appreciate is getting together “at home” once again…with those familiar faces, telling the same stories over and over, so that even the honorary siblings know the punch lines.

“Again, with the sports goggles? You’re annoying.”

“I love you.”

“Talk to you soon.”

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Don’t miss Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Can You Make Me a Paper Airplane?

At the table adjacent to ours, a trio of high school girls was studying for an anatomy test. I know because they were quizzing each other, loudly, on the finer points of the skeletal system. For the first time in about 20 years, I heard the words “metacarpals” and “tibial tuberosity.”

As I sipped my chai tea latte, only one word flickered through my science-challenged brain: brutal.

“Mom.” I glanced over at Grace. She was holding out a page from the coloring book I’d brought. “Can you make me a paper airplane?”

I smiled. “I’m sorry, honey, but I don’t know how.”

“You don’t know how?”

When we’re little, we think of our parents as superheroes. There’s nothing they don’t know, or can’t do. This perception probably peaks around age 7 and then plummets by 16, when we’re full-fledged, omniscient teenagers. 😉

Grace, and Anna too, stared at me in horror. I shrugged. Paper airplanes are Stanton’s forte, not mine.

“Well, ask someone,” Grace suggested.

I glanced around the back parlor of our coffee shop. I wasn’t going to interrupt the intense anatomy test study session, that was for sure. Two other women were huddled by the oversized window, deep in conversation and their second 16-ounce cups of coffee. A man was nearby, a portfolio of papers splayed in front of him. Another gentleman was chuckling at his phone.

“Not right now, honey,” I said.

“Why?” Grace asked.

“Why?” Anna repeated.

I tilted my head at them. “I’m feeling shy right now.”

Anna tilted her head back at me. “Aww,” she empathized.

I love my coffee shop dates with my daughters. Just sitting together, hanging out…

“Mom! I have a great idea!” Grace’s brown eyes were sparkling. “You can ask your phone!”

Indeed I could. “OK,” I agreed, digging my phone out of the diaper bag.

I Googled “how to make a paper airplane.” Grace slid the coloring page across our table. Anna licked pumpkin chocolate-chip muffin from her fingertips.

Paper Airplane 3-13-17

A few minutes later, I had transformed that coloring page into a paper airplane for my 5-year-old. You would have thought I’d hung the moon, Grace was so happy.

“You did it! You really did it!” Grace said.

“Yay!” Two-year-old Anna clapped.

And from the table adjacent to ours, the high schoolers were now debating true ribs, false ribs and floating ribs.

In all honesty, I really enjoyed my high school anatomy class. I had an excellent teacher, Mr. Smedley, who made the subject interesting and relevant. Anatomy is one of those subjects where you actually can use the information in everyday life when you grow up.

But then you do grow up, and what most impresses your children—at least one afternoon in a coffee shop, anyway—is that you can make them a paper airplane.

Paper airplane making was one of my Poppy’s finest skills. He served as an airplane mechanic during World War II and later flew airplanes as a hobby. He loved all things aeronautical.

When I was a freshman in college, Poppy mailed me a letter. I was homesick during those first few weeks away from our Pennsylvania hometown, and I loved hearing from my Poppy. Appreciated that memento of home.

I saved Poppy’s letter for a long time, but don’t have it anymore. It got misplaced, or lost, or recycled when I moved from my freshman-year dorm to my sophomore-year one.

But then you do grow up, and what most impresses your children—at least one afternoon in a coffee shop, anyway—is that you can make them a paper airplane.

That’s, possibly, the hardest thing about moving, whether across campus or across the country: You can’t take all your stuff with you, so you have to rely on your memories of what the stuff meant.

Luckily, I do remember. I remember that Poppy had drawn an airplane after his signature on the letter. He loved all things aeronautical, right? Yes. And the letter, and the airplane, meant he loved me.

Human beings are resilient, I’ve been told. And I believe that’s true. Every day, I make a conscious effort to, simply, “choose happy.” To focus on the good. Leave people and places better than I found them. That sort of thing.

But there are times when I’m feeling sad, or stressed, or shy, as I was in the coffee shop that afternoon.

During these times, I give myself a moment to acknowledge these emotions. Sadness, stress, shyness. For example, I wish Poppy could have met Anna; he would have loved her. I acknowledge that sadness, that sense of loss.

After I’ve had my moment, I do my best to move forward. To refocus on the good. Celebrate all the good things.

You can’t take all your stuff with you, so you have to rely on your memories of what the stuff meant.

As we journey along, we face all kinds of assessments, from high school anatomy tests to mortgage applications to annual physicals. Someone tells us if we’ve passed or failed based on theoretically objective standards.

Were we good enough? Or do we not get to pass “Go”?

I don’t know, but I suspect, that as we near the end of our journey, we give ourselves a self-assessment or sorts. We reflect on the path we carved—the choices we made—the affection we gave, or withheld. What we’re leaving behind.

“What’s the difference between true ribs and false ribs?”—our end-of-journey self-assessment almost certainly doesn’t include questions like these.

No, more like… “Did I do good work? Did I choose love over hate? Did I do the best I could for my family? Did I take walks, and watch the sun set, and play Marco Polo in the summer and build snowmen in the winter?”

Did I make paper airplanes?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.