insert (relief) here
amid a long stretch of blur, amid headlines of “bloodbaths” at the newspaper that basically birthed the whole of this family, amid a washington moment that left me wanting for a lysol bath (in the infamous line my mother once uttered upon a trip home from a las vegas convention, the woes of the ad exec’s dutiful wife), amid deadlines that have me typing from darkness to darkness, the tall bespectacled fellow with whom i reside (aka my lawful wedded husband) casually glanced out at the snows as i motored him off to yesterday’s train. “it’s my half-birthday today,” he informed, as if that alone might be enough to save the day.
and it was, and it did, in its infinitesimal way.
the moment, which i latched onto, which i considered as i went about the eventual business of melting ice cream, hauling out a heart-shaped cookie cutter, as i sprinkled ghirardelli chocolatey chips–plonk, plonk, plonk on the plate–sliced strawberries in quarters and halves, was not unlike a wisp of a comma in a long, long paragraph of words: easily missed, but emphatically necessary (ask any third-grade teacher of grammar).
the sense indecipherable without it.
necessary, because in the seasons of life, some feel impossibly uphill; others, more feet-off-the-pedals-whiz-down-the-lane hardly an effort at all. necessary, because the human species is hard-wired for a break in the weather, a break in the onslaught. (i often wonder if that’s why God invented seasons, and the turnings therein.) and sometimes we have to decidedly, determinedly, do that–engineer the breaks–all by ourselves. it’s our job. we have to insert (joy) here. insert (relief) there. insert (closest thing to whimsy) precisely here.
my first wave of response, loosely holding the wheel, craning my neck to get a look at the half-birthday boy’s face, was to utterly melt. to be charmed that the long-standing practice in this old house of making a fuss over fractional birthdays (as recently as noting someone’s 26-1/2) had rubbed off on the tall one. he’d never before in all these years mentioned his half birthday, though it comes a mere two days before the one we’ve been noting for the last 18 years. (don’t think i didn’t try to mail half a birthday cake to faraway college…)
my second wave of response, the one that’s stuck with me all day and over the night, is the not-so-big thought that sometimes it’s up to us to take the reins of our joys, and our whimsies, and push away the worries, the angst, the unrelenting questions, for enough of a pause to let in a dribble of light.
otherwise, we go dark. endlessly dark.
and there’s something particularly joyful about making your joys all by yourself. home-spun joy. joy barely noticed. joy that comes from scrounging the pantry (too many deadlines to rush to the grocery). from reaching into the freezer and thinking ahead to melt the tahitian-vanilla-bean ice cream (okay, so i had to take two passes at that part when i forgot i was in the middle of melting and found myself with a pint of oozy liquid vanilla). from reaching into the basket of heart-shaped cookie cutters, pulling out just the right one. from turning the lights out, striking a match, ferrying a heart + berries + chocolatey chips and flickering candle over to the half-birthday boy.
it was the tiniest wisp of a moment–surely a comma in a long string of words (try reading without that ink swirl on the page we know as the comma). but it ushered in an exclamation mark of momentary joy. and that, at the midpoint of a year in the life of someone you love, is perfectly, positively necessary. and good.
how might you insert (joy/relief/wonder) here, today or any tomorrow?
Thanks for that little lesson of: insert here.
Sometimes, at the end of a long, hard week, need exactly just that – a recognition and a little act of creation.
dear nina, you are welcome. it was only a tiny wisp of a lesson–not unlike a tiny wisp of a comma, i suppose. but seemed worth paying attention to…..and welcome to the table.
Before I read your essay, I’d never given it a thought. But yesterday was MY half birthday. I daresay we shall celebrate tonight with something sweet. Winter needs sweetness.
WELL! happy half birthday!!! sounds like you and someone i love share the same whole birthday, too! happy half! happy whole (i’ll now never forget). i’m tickled at the thought of you now getting to spend even a comma of your day considering just how you’ll treat your sweet self, the whole of you, tonight…..
Mea Culpa. No math genius here. July 6. I got all excited about comma-ing.
What the heck, go with the fraction! Celebrate 7/12ths!!! ❤️❤️❤️
My sweetheart has been having dental issues (because of that darn car accident way back in December) and so has not been able to munch on his nightly treat of crispy chocolate chip cookies for weeks and weeks now. On a snowy day last week, I hauled out the pantry ingredients for a chocolate cake recipe out of an old Reader’s Digest Quick and Thrifty Cookbook. A friend who has the very same cookbook had told me her family had made that dessert often during her growing up years and so I mixed and baked and turned out a mighty tasty replacement for the crispy chocolate chip cookies my hubby has been missing. I inserted a little chocolate joy amidst the woes of dental difficulties.
a theme here seems to be chocolate out of the blue, out of the pantry! bless you for indulging your sweetheart. and i am so sorry that awful car accident is refusing to fade into rear view mirror.
sending a hug. xoxox
p.s. don’t you love those old “magazine” cookbooks, the ones that gathered so many american kitchen treasures….
Happy Half Birthday to Blair! How loving and thoughtful of you not only to celebrate but also to make your readers experience the JOY of it all. Don’t we all need some mega-doses of JOY these days!??! You are amazing, thank you!
not amazing. just in deep need of an infusion of something joyful!! as i type, after a long night/day of writing (that’s a day that starts in the night), i am listening to all that’s unfolded today. holy mackerel. i might need to go melt some more ice-cream…..
Just now this morning, in the quiet moments, I am soaking up your reflection of yesterday. Thank you for seeing the world in ways that I do too. And sharing. Monday for no good reason, except for all of the above put to paper by you, I plastic wrapped and bubble wrapped and boxed and taped up a chocolate babka and US postal mailed it, with stickers and smiley faces all over the box, to one college senior daughter. Because I needed a hard stop and some love and connection in my day. And because long about Thursday whether she needed it or not, my daughter would have that breath of air too. 💕You are the best.
it melts me into a puddle to picture you across the way, wrapping a cake — a CAKE! — like there was no tomorrow, like it was joy jumping out of a box, and mailing it CLEAR ACROSS THE CONTINENT! that is some serious love in that cake, and your story makes me want to look harder and deeper and more wildly for those tiny stitches of moments that literally hold our hearts together, keep the cracks as part of the whole.
your stories inspire. isn’t funny how love makes love grow? all we have to do is witness it, and it shimmers us into wanting to enter into more and more and more….
love you, sweet friend. and thank you for launching this saturday with your joy-box story!
well of course your missives, and the lovely shares that follow, are those moments in and of themselves. in this moment, to be stitched together with these people, is a breath of air. more of those moments can only be good. and perhaps the chocolate theme is important too ; )
xoxo chocolate does seem to be rising to certain heights here, doesn’t it? and, yup, i too breathe deeply the air of those who make the chair all that it is…..xxoxox
I have learned that sometimes you just have to turn the news OFF.
When I have taught outplacement/job search groups in the past few years, the news blaring how very low the unemployment rate is (recordbreaking!) and hearing it throughout the day is demoralizing for job seekers. “Such a low rate and I can’t find a job? I must be a loser” is their self-talk. So I give them permission to listen once a day to 1/2 hour of news, and then OFF!
After these last few weeks I, like all of you, have had an overdose of demoralizing news and trials. Time to bake my own family’s chocolate cake. 🙂
wise words, your half-hour limit! right now, thanks to work deadlines, i’m barely listening and it might be making a difference.
there’s bound to be a run on chocolate after all these posts. you’ll all forgive me if i admit one of my original sins: (whispering:) i don’t like chocolate. i’m a vanilla-bean girl. mea culpa.
God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world,… we just don’t realize it..
instead of the news, hitch your attention to what He has to say about living life to the fullest and sharing your wisdom and love with those around you…
He always balances the scales…and truth usually wins out….eventually.
In the meantime, trust His plan.. we have chocolate, don’t we?
amen to chocolate! (or vanilla for us weirdos.) xoxox
My computer might actually be working again!! Wishing Blair a belated half birthday, and sending love to you all! xxx
Ha! As in HAllelujah!!! Welcome back! Sooooo happy you got the gremlins chased away!
Will pass along your wishes!