August 3, 2018

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Cherish memories made by special people on ordinary days

Patti LambThe summer came to an end entirely too soon, and my 10-year-old daughter, Margaret, was singing the back-to-school blues as she labeled her folders and notebooks for a new academic year.

“I can’t believe it’s time to go back already!” she sighed.

“And now I’ll have to hear all about all my friends’ fancy vacations to Disney World and Hawaii and Saturn,” she added.

While none of her friends actually boarded a rocket to visit the second largest planet in our solar system, I appreciated her attempt at comparing her “ordinary” summer with that of her friends.

Her comment prompted a discussion about the value of ordinary days. I reminded my daughter that, although we didn’t go to a fancy resort or ride in hot air balloons—another item on her summer bucket list—we had a pretty fabulous summer.

I reminded her of some great summer moments: tie-dying shirts in the garage with a kit from the craft store (and how my hand was purple for the following three days); enjoying milkshakes from Steak ’n Shake on one of the hottest days of summer; time spent with her dad and brother learning how to dive and flip off the board at the aquatic center; holding the new record for getting stuck the most times on a go-kart track; intense family Uno tournaments that kept us up past bedtime.

“When you get older, you’ll realize that these ordinary days are ‘the good stuff,’ ” I said.

This month, my dad is blessed to celebrate his 90th birthday. As his gift, my oldest sister suggested that everyone in the family share their favorite memories of dad. Her intention was to compile a book of 90 wonderful memories, but she ended up collecting many more.

I found myself fondly remembering how dad taught me to play mini golf on Sunday evenings in the summers at Putt‑Putt, followed by a stop for McDonald’s fries on the way home. I explained to Margaret that many of life’s most precious memories don’t involve waking up to a Lexus with a bow in the driveway.

Great memories are about ordinary days spent together with extraordinary people. No fanfare necessary.

Margaret shared one of her favorite memories of my dad: “Pop sat down with me at the kitchen table, and taught me how to write my name in cursive when I was only in the first grade!”

This summer, I attended a visitation prior to a funeral for my friend’s son. “Hug your kids,” she whispered into my ear when she embraced me at the casket. The slideshow in the gathering space, set to music, moved me to tears. I saw photo after photo of her son during life’s wonderful ordinary moments: sitting on the dock fishing; sledding with his sisters; the first day of first grade.

A quote by author Katrina Kenison comes to mind: “It has taken a while, but I certainly do know it now—the most wonderful gift I had, the gift I finally learned to cherish above all else, was the gift of those perfectly ordinary days.”

As we start this new month—and new school year—I hope we savor the ordinary moments that lie ahead, not taking them, or the wonderful people in our lives, for granted.

A verse from Psalm 90 states it beautifully: “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (Ps 90:12).

Life is brief and tomorrow is not promised, so we should cherish each ordinary day at a time.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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