What is it to live

As I wrote yesterday’s post, I remembered an oft-told story my mom liked from my childhood.

It was a hot August afternoon in the country.  The sun was setting, and the light glowed with a special warm light.  I was about three, riding in the car, just me and my mom with the windows rolled down.  As the wind blew through the car, we inhaled deeply, breathing in the smell of growing corn, of earth and green and summer and evening.

I turned to my mom and said, “I feel so happy.”

When she told this story, my mom would stop here, and say that in that moment, she realized that her little girl had really and truly experienced life.  She’d say, “I knew then that if you were to die the next day that (as horrible as it sounds) in a way it would be OK because you knew in your very own soul what beauty was.”

I like that story because it reminds me deep in my gut how much my mom loved me.  And it reminds me how much I gained from her – how much of my appreciation of beauty and of life I gleaned from her…just because I’m her daughter.

The song that I wrote about yesterday – When the Night Came Around – made me think of that August car ride because after hearing the song for the first time, Andrew said, “Wow.  Mom, I really like that song.  It makes me feel so happy.”

I love raising my children for many, many reasons.  The snuggles and little sleeping bodies are high on my list.  But one subtle reason I love having children is that I feel like there is such a continuity between me and my mom and then between my kids and me.  I love tending to their developing aesthetic by surrounding our lives with good music and entertainment, beautiful clothes and toy, wholesome food, imaginative play, outdoor exploration, lots of stories and activities and listening time.

And hopefully Andrew and Sylvia are developing a rounded sense of what it is to be alive.

I hope that my children and everyone I care for gets to live to old age where they can savor each season of life.  But I don’t necessarily feel like people are owed a long life.  I hope to live my life and to teach my children to live their lives so that no matter how many days we have we suck the marrow out of each one.

That reminds me of my favorite scene from Dead Poet’s Society

John Keating: [talking about people in old awards ceremony photographs] They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. [the students lean in] Listen, you hear it? [whispers in a raspy voice] Carpe — hear it? — Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.

Mom loved that quote too:)

Here’s the video clip for a little Robin Williams inspiration:

Forward to the 3 minute point if you’d like to get to the quoted section.

6 Replies to “What is it to live”

  1. Althea, I'm not sure how to put this. But I love who you are! I am so different from you (not a good or bad thing), but I love who you are! It is a gift to know you!

  2. Your Mom sure did know how to live and what to value above all else. And she sure did love you, her first-born chick, to the moon and back again!

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