Sunday, April 25, 2010
My daughters and I went out to eat after their NYSSMA performances (which they both aced) and there was a bit of sibling squabbling over lunch. As we left, my younger daughter Jane (9) requested a balloon and we got one for her. We held it tight until we got to the car, where Jane asked me to tie it to her wrist. I tied it but didn't tie the knot tight enough and as I backed away, the string caught the wind and the balloon wrenched itself from her wrist and went up into the sky.
The negative voices in my head spoke right up to tell me that I was inept and a failure--couldn't even tie a stupid balloon to my child's wrist. Couldn't give my children a celebratory lunch without things going wrong. My face fell.
I think my older daughter (Ana, 12) thought I was seriously upset because she suggested that we go to the nursery by our house. Jane didn't want to go but I heard Ana promise her M&Ms from her personal stash if she cooperated. "Let's do this for Mom," she whispered.
We went to the nursery and my girls were running around exclaiming over the beauty of the plants. I was laughing out loud at their joy. We filled up two carts!
We came home and planted and planted and planted. At some point, Jane went back inside but Ana stayed out with me and planted and planted and planted. And then she exclaimed, "Mom, thank you for buying these plants! This is so much fun!" And then she said, "This is the best day! I am having the best time!"
Nothing fills me with peace and hope and happiness more than working in my garden. And to have my daughters share that love... I think it might have been the best day of the year so far.
Later, I took a bath and thought about Ana and thought that maybe, planting in the sun for three hours was Ana's gift to me. Quietly, and with the grace of someone much older, she had given of herself to me--given me exactly what I needed most at exactly the time I needed it.
Today, I will concentrate on the quiet grace of those I interact with. I've spent two years complaining that the strangers I come across on Long Island tend to be brusque and rude. Now I think that maybe the grace of the people here just comes in a different packaging than that of their Southern counterparts. Yesterday, a woman at the nursery saw me buying a clamatis plant and she said, "What is that?" I told her. "That's what I thought," she said and turned away.
Later, I was choosing some impatiens and a shadow fell over me. "Have you planted that clematis before?" I looked up to find the same Clematis woman. "I don't think so," I answered." "You'll want to plant some other kind of plant--like those impatiens --around the roots. They like to have their roots shaded." "Oh, thank you!" "Yeah, they like to have their roots shaded." She disappeared.
It wasn't until I went looking for it that I realized that this was a New York moment of grace: A stranger hunted me down in a busy nursery to tell me how to plant something. I would have missed it if Ana hadn't shown me that these moments of grace come in all sizes and colors and shapes. Today I will remember to look for them.
(Full disclosure: the clematis in the photo is from Google Images. It's raining too hard for me to photograph mine!)