This is an updated version of a piece of writing I started over a year ago. Today seemed as good a day as any to be thankful for all the routines and rituals that keep the little trio that is my family on solid ground. Day 22 of this month-long writing challenge asks that we write about something ordinary that inspires or drives us . . .
Years ago, I had one of those very lucid and realistic dreams in which I had misplaced an important book. I was searching high up and low down for it in a dark and unfamiliar house. I awoke, frantic and unsure if it had all just been a dream, but I was still perturbed to have lost this book, “the big book of simple pleasures.” Sounds plausible, even now, that such a book could have existed in reality bringing to mind a compendium of Martha Stewart’s good things. The very notion of it appeals to me as does an ordinary day filled to the brim with simple pleasures and the time to fully savor them. It is often in the mundanity of life, within commonplace conversations and overlooked moments, that we find the stories of ourselves. Consider all the ordinary things we scratch and scribble onto post-it notes and paper napkins, all the reminders to do or acquire the stuff we need to keep us on solid ground, our grand ideas hastily captured on a napkin over a glass of wine with a friend, our lists of instructions on what to do and what not to do, even our growing bucket lists of dreams yet to come true. In such a book, there is no place for a message received too late, a fence never mended, or undeniable evidence of a loved one’s harrowing descent into memory loss. One would find only those ordinary certainties like those that make a Sunday morning.
On Sundays, I am slow to stir, in spite of the predictable sunshine streaming in. Thinking I might still be asleep, my husband will ever so quietly make a pot of coffee. But I am awake. Still. Enjoying the distinct sounds of newspaper pages turning, a tiny shower of cereal falling into a bowl, bread popping from the toaster, and the tell-tale stifled chuckle if my daughter has been successful in snagging the Sunday comics from the newspaper that has been strategically arranged for reading by my husband. There is some outside but welcome interference – random arpeggios composed by California wind-chimes hanging heavy from a magnificent Chilean mesquite tree in the middle of our backyard; the distant rumble of a truck on an otherwise abandoned freeway; the plaintive coo of the mourning doves, and the soft woof of a neighbor’s dog. It is a Sunday morning spell, cast just for me, its effects slow to subside.
Workday mornings are different. We are a little more hurried and harried by thoughts of what and what not to wear, what needs to be turned in, last minute signatures on a permission slip, money for lunch, reminders to take vitamins and to have a really great day, even when we know the day will only be great when we return home again. Just one more cup of coffee, a goodbye hug and a kiss. An “I love you,” and “I love you too.” “See you tonight.” When it’s my turn to leave for work, I can count on three things: my husband will blow me a kiss, flash a peace sign, and watch from the window until I disappear from view. A tiny, ordinary ritual that ensures a perfect farewell. Fare well. Every day.
Thus we mark time. Far better to consider the quotidian moments such as these that should saturate the space that stretches from sunrise to sunset. No subtext, no surprises. Each of us on solid ground. Home.
Being Boring by Wendy Cope
“‘May you live in interesting times,’ Chinese curse
If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it’s better today.
I’m content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.
There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears of passion-I’ve used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last.
If nothing much happens, I’m thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.
I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don’t need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring,
I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.”