Just for Joy

I was working in my room one foggy Saturday afternoon. The children were playing in the living room. I heard them playing with the keyboard, listening to the pre-recorded songs in it's memory bank. Beethoven's Fur Elise came on more than once. I love that piece. It played over and over, I didn't mind at all.

I remember wanting to take piano lessons when I was 15. My mom didn't want to pay for the lessons so I got a part time job at the grocery store down the street. I paid for a month's worth of lessons but it didn't last.

Fur Elise started to sound slower. They must have figured out how to change the tempo, I thought.

When I was 19, I took piano for beginners in college. I loved it. When the music department replaced their full sized keyboards at the end of term, I bought one for $400 so I could practice at home. My brother, who was 11 at the time, incidentally, learned to love the piano as well and learned to play ten times faster. Before long, I could just give him sheet music and he would figure it out. That keyboard brought so much music and light into our tenement life.

Fur Elise was now sounding even slower and occasionally making mistakes followed by a correction here or there. I went outside to investigate. My nine year old was sitting in front of the keyboard, carefully memorizing which keys were pressed on the keyboard tutorial screen and then playing it for himself on the keys. Having no back ground in piano playing at all, he would use his left big toe to mark where his left hand needed to move. The sight was endearing.

"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I like this song." He said simply.
"Me too." I said.

What he doesn't know is that Fur Elise was the first piano piece I had really put my energy into learning since I was 19. Every once in a while, when I would have a piano or keyboard at my disposal, that would be the piece I strive to improve.  I showed him how I remember where my hands go.

Days pass and he continues to get better and better. He can now play the first little movement.

"Would you like me to find you a piano teacher or a piano school, Clayton?"
"Mom, I don't want to be a professional pianist."

Of course not. You play because you want to.... because it brings you joy.

I sat down in front of the keyboard when he wasn't playing with it and started practicing again, Fur Elise, my old friend. I was able to play further than I have ever before. Some parts, my left hand and right hand wanted to do it separately. But that's okay. To be quite honest, it's not the most beautiful thing to hear - right now, but it is deeply poignant.

How liberating is it to do something simply because it brings me light and joy. I am in awe of how my children are continually inspiring me. I hope it is mutual.

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“Yes” to the Small Stuff

The youngest of my three boys is five years old. He wants to do everything his brothers do. He wants to have everything his brothers have but he is a few years too young and a few inches too short. I find myself saying “no” to him more than I remember saying to my first and second born combined.

Today, on our bike ride, we saw a tree whose blossoms fell on to the street in such a way that it painted the ground yellow. “Can we ride through that?” He asked as we passed it. My legs were tired, it was starting to drizzle. We’re just a few minutes from home.

I looked back at the petal ladened street.  I turned around.

“What are you doing?” Burian inquired.

“Going to bike through the petals.” I answered.

“Yaaay!” He cheered.

I realized that it’s okay for me to hold him close and innocent, it’s okay for me to say “no” to things that I don’t think he is ready for or healthy for him at this age. But I can say “yes” to the small stuff… probably the stuff that matters most.

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Heart Melt Moments

Clayton scootered down the street of a friend’s house. The road was hilly, and as we soon discovered, it was also gravely. He fell, quite fantastically, and scrapped one knee, one elbow, one thigh, and the whole right side of his abdomin and chest. There are going to be some memorable souvenir scars from this one.

As I was cleaning him up in our friend’s house, I said, we’re not going to be going anywhere for a while.

In between tears, sobs and “I’m dying”, he said he wouldn’t be able to help around the house for a few days either. (heart melt moment #1)

Clayton received two chocolates from our friend before we left their house. He didn’t want to eat them right away. When he finally wanted to eat them after I cleaned his wounds, he asked me if he could share them with his brothers. (heart melt moment #2)

Just last month, for Clayton’s birthday, we went around a circle and shared with the birthday boy what attributes we saw in him and were grateful for. Jing Wen, his older brother, said that Clayton was generous and fun to be with. How right on was he.

Thanks to Clayton, quite a few kids learned today not to scooter down that hill. What I am even more grateful for is the reminder of what a kind, loving and adventurous person I have in my life. Thank you dear Clayton.

PS: He is healing nicely, well bandaged and sleeping soundly.


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The Light in Her Eyes

Yesterday we brought our two older boys to see grandma Jean. They were not enthusiastic, they’ve never really known her except for some brief visits where she would ask them how old they were and comment on how big they’ve grown. But they do know that she is their last living great grandparent and they may not see her again. So, somewhat reluctantly, they came with us.

She was asleep on a recliner with the Cartoon Network on.

“Should we wake her?” Cameron whispered.

“No, let’s just sing to her.” I suggested and turned off the TV. We surrounded her.

“Starlight, Star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight.

I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills, I love the fir trees, I love the daffodils.

I love the fireside, when the lights are low… boom dee ah da, boom dee ah da, boom dee ah da, boom dee ah dah. 

Starlight, Star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight…”

After a minute or so, she opened her eyes and looked at us. Her stare was piercing.

“We love you grandma.” I said.

“I love you too.” She mumbled in reply, the words unmistakable. The quickness of her response surprised me and stung my eyes.

The only part of her body that seemed to be under her control was her eyes. She stared deeply into each of our eyes. We sang several more songs as we sat around her.

“Should we get going soon?” I asked as I started to get up. Two of her fingers tightened slightly around my hand.

She continued to look at me. So we stayed. “Do you want me to turn the television back on?” I asked almost ridiculously.

“Mom, no.” Jing Wen said quickly. He was kneeling on the floor right beside her face. They looked at each other for some time, not speaking. Then I noticed tears streaming down his face, one after another. My heart swelled.

We’ve made many visits in the past, but these recent ones, to me, have been the most poignant and potent. Gone are the conversations of what we are doing and how things are going. In it’s place are moments of silently and purposefully looking into each other’s eyes, basking in each other’s inner light. Time seems to stand still. There is no judgements or distractions, just pure being, presence and love. During these moments, I feel more connected to Cameron’s grandmother than I have ever been. It is when I feel the most mutual understanding, which usually leaves me in tears of joy and sadness.

I’ve never shared these thoughts with Jing Wen. But I can guess, this was one of his most memorable visits too.

Upon departure, we all gave great grandma a hug and a kiss. “We love you grandma.” I said again.

“I love you too.” She replied, her mouth barely moving. Her eyes, steady, lingered on each of us and her cheek twitched. Her eyes told me she was smiling. We walked toward the door and she followed us with her eyes until we were out of sight.

I don’t know if we’ll see grandma again like this. But I can say that she was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met in my life. Reminding me, in her last days on Earth what is truly important.

Namaste to you too grandma. The light in me sees and honors the light in you.

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Down But Not Broken

Our friends were kind enough to lend us a rain stick for my play last month. A young student had made it for her teacher, our friend.

His wife was delivering it to me at school when her children and a friend accidentally broke it in two. She suggested that we could tape up on side and use the larger half of the rain stick, accepting gracefully that things happen, it’s part of life.

When I told cameron the story, he was very upset. He wanted to fix it so it is as close to the original as possible.

With all the work inside and outside of the house, I said, it probably wasn’t necessary. But he insisted. He remembers one too many times in his life, precious things were borrowed and returned damaged or forgotten all together. He had enough of those stories and he wasn’t to create another one for someone else. So he spent many hours splinting the rainstick and putting it back together, stronger than it had been.

When it was dry, I put it in my car to bring to the play. By then, they had already found another rainstick and didn’t need it anymore. I left it in the car so as to remember to return it as soon as possible.

The next morning, getting the kids in the car, I noticed the rain stick was no longer in the car where I had left it. The front passenger seat was pushed completely back and reclined and everything was pulled out of the consoles. It looked like someone might have spent the night in our car and rummaged through it. But where was the rain stick that cameron so carefully repaired?

50 feet away, under a tree by the road. The dew and morning rain had gotten to it. We brought it inside.

When we returned home from school, we had more time to look at it and see what we could do. The tube was damp and soft. We emptied the insides and set the blow drier to it. Even when it was dried it was still soft and peeling in many places.

Rainstick repair

Judging from the enthusiasm cameron took to caring for it and mending it, I knew this was no longer about the rain stick, it was about something much bigger, bigger than cameron and our family. It was about healing the wounds of childhood. As I watched him stay up mending the rainstick, I remember all the stories he had told me of his childhood, siblings and friends who borrow his things and return them broken or never to be seen again. Each stroke of his brush on the paper I saw as another application of arnica for the heart of his childhood self, enough to even rub off on me. Perhaps now, we may all be one step closer to letting go of the haunts of our pass. Recognizing that we do have a hand in shaping the our experience of the present and the future. As my children watched and helped. I knew something very important was happening for everyone.

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