Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Picking Up The Pieces When Life Feels Like A Game of Dominoes
There are toys that beep and toys that buzz. Toys that glitter and toys that shine. Learning toys, cuddly toys, active toys, e-toys, gender neutral toys, dress-up toys. Toys from friends, and toys from family. Toys made in China and toys made in...other parts of China.
And in order to make room for the semi-annual influx of new toys, we set aside a few hours to go through the current stash of toys for those no longer working and no longer wanted. And in addition to those our birthday tradition states that each child is required to find the same number of toys as his/her age to give away.
In the midst of this process, we typically uncover some treasures of birthdays/Christmases past buried in the bins or relegated to the far reaches of the toy chest (aka The Island of Banned Toys):
"Ooh, Mommy! Remember this dollie that really pees and poops when you feed her??? I wonder how she got stuffed in the bottom of this box!"
"Mom- remember how you said you'd help me put together this 4000 piece 3-D light-up, musical mosaic tile puzzle?"
But occasionally, as my just turned five-year-old daughter and I discovered on a rainy day while eating someone's leftover birthday cake, there are some pleasant surprises.
That was the day she came across a box of dominoes. Good, old fashioned, low-tech, dominoes. I'm not sure whose gift it once was, but the unassuming box hadn't even been opened. And so we happily passed the afternoon together, carefully constructing squiggly lines all across the playroom floor, until that inevitable moment when one slip of her hand set off the familiar clink-clink-clink-clink chain reaction and one by one, end-to-end, they all tumbled over.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! She wailed. "They can't FALL DOWN!!!! Everything is RUINED!!!!!!!!"
"But it isn't," I assured her with a comforting hug as we surveyed the damage. "Just look: nothing is ruined, and all the pieces are still there. It's different, but it's still beautiful."
She walked away, turning her attention to another one of the Ghosts of Birthdays Past, and I was left holding one lone domino in my hand, trying to convince myself that what I told her really was true.
Because lately I've found myself feeling like I'm trying to hold everything up and it's all falling down around me. Piece by piece, one little clink at a time. Because when a loved one is ill, and when you can't fix it, it's hard to make any of the pieces stand up. It's hard to enjoy the the things you once loved when you know that something...or someone... is missing.
But something about that domino in my hand helped me realize that there is beauty in change, even the most difficult kind. There is peace to be found in shared memories, and there is joy in passing them on.
So I put that domino in my pocket, scooped up my little girl and took her over to the couch. I pulled out a weathered, dog-eared copy of a much beloved book my dad must have read to me at least 200 times. I showed her where he'd helped me write my name in the inside cover, a crooked, five-year-old's scrawl using 3 lower case letters and one upper case.
We got out a crayon, and right below it, almost close enough to touch, I helped her write her own.
It was a lot of sweet and a little bit sad all at once: the spot where past and present stood side-by-side. End-to-end.
And so it seems that's the way life will be. A lot of sweet and little bit sad all at once.
So instead of dwelling on what isn't, and on what has been lost, I will do my best to focus on what still is, and what will never end.
And I will take my memories in one hand and my future in the other and place them next to each other.
There they will stand together, almost touching, end-to-end.
And if it starts to feel like everything is falling down, I'll remember: all the pieces are still there.
It may be different, but it's still beautiful.