As the holiday season approaches, my usual reflective self emerges. Looking back over the past year’s gifts and surprises, I am once again hopeful for the promise of a good year ahead. But at a time when the world seems to be shrinking and spinning out of control, I find myself holding on to the simple things to maintain my balance.
Too much everything: Everyday now, life around us gets crazier, more irrational and more violent. It’s easy to just stop caring, as we’re swept along like dried-up leaves in a windstorm. We tune out, turn off or just change the channel.
We become obsessed with an electronic age of peeping reality shows and detached virtual experiences. We’re immersed in a sea of toys that do too much and imaginations that do too little. We don’t talk, we surf. We don’t read, we watch. We don’t feel because we’re numb.
Out of sync: It’s hard to know how to push back on the tremendous pressures of a rapidly changing society and grab hold of the little things that give spark and spirit to what we do. I think it’s important that we stay connected with our world and we need to care that it needs changing. And, I believe we need to look deeply into the faces of our children to make that connection.
Inside out: I turn to my beautiful granddaughter Farrell who is 9 years old. I love her unbridled sense of enthusiasm so much, it makes my chest hurt. Her smile reaches in and touches the warm in my heart and I grin like an idiot when I’m with her. I look deep into her mischievous eyes and see the fire of life burning with anticipation and adventure.
I am inspired to keep that passion alive, by teaching her to experience life and to feel it in her heart – the good and the bad of it. I believe she will always want to change what needs changing in her world, if she stays connected with her feelings and listens from the inside.
Fanning the flame: Too much of what we love and care about is snuffed out today by an overdose of bloodthirsty games and violent special-effects entertainment. It oozes like a numbing virus, seeping its way into our homes, our lives, our hearts.
I vow to do what I can to help keep Farrell’s senses alive so things around her will always matter. I teach her how to care about her inner life, as well as her outer life. I need to protect her from getting caught up in the seductive maelstrom of a bigger-faster-cyberworld.
She needs to believe that the allure of technological perfection can never replace the imperfections of the human touch. I have a burning need to help create the fuel to keep Farrell’s flame from going out.
Passing it on: I have so many things to tell her. Not just the inside scoop on her mother’s teenage shenanigans, my menopause madness or the big save-the-world stuff. We’ll surely get to those. But for now, Farrell inspires me to remember the little things that give life texture.
Things like getting soaked in the rain, rolling in the sweet summer grass and counting the elephant clouds tumbling across the sky. I teach her how to help with the laundry instead of worrying about getting her clothes dirty. I show her how to always look for life, even when it hides; like under mossy rocks, inside buzzing beehives and below the slimy smooth surface of a foggy bog.
We draw pictures and get splattered with paint. We giggle, share silly stories and explore the wonderful world of make-believe. I close my eyes and listen when she plays the piano. We recite rhyming poetry and tell each other secrets on the wooden glider on my balcony.
Jerk genes beware! I encourage her to love even when it hurts and to hate no one. Someday, I’ll pass on the wisdom my mother taught me – never to trust a man wearing an ascot. And I’ll share my sacred belief that every male has a jerk-gene that surfaces from time to time – even the nice ones. But most important of all, I teach her how to laugh until the inside of her stomach hurts, because I’ve learned that laughter is the echo of the soul.
Family secrets: I try to teach her how to weave family values into holiday traditions, while we mix up the secret ingredients of her great grandmother’s Christmas turkey dressing. I encourage her to grab her dad’s hand and dance with him as often as she can and I assure her that moms do make best friends. I tell her that it’s sometimes better to stomp and splash through the rain puddles than to always take the dry high road. And one day, I may even teach her how to swim with the sharks as I did – in the awesome barrier reef in Belize and in the corporate towers of the financial world.
Return on investment: I am inspired for Farrell to become the best human being she can be. I want to do everything I can to keep the spark of adventure and truth and humanity in the choices she makes. In return, she gives me the hope that while she strives to make a better world, she’ll always be warmed and protected by the fire of life burning brightly in her heart.
(Grandma) Pat Skene