There are days that determine your destiny, days that change who you are and what you want out of life. The defining days are few; most people can count them on one hand and identify them without a moment of retrospect. Most assume to find these moments in their ‘celebration days’. As I listen to my teenage daughters dream, I know they are anticipating that their wedding day will be one and the arrival of their children will be others. For my son, the day he hoists the Stanley cup over his head centre rink he envisions, will be one. I do not have the heart to tell them that those days while monumental and significant might not be the days they anticipate them to be. I’m not sure how to break it to them that a defining day mostly likely will start out just like any other day with sleeping in and burnt coffee, traffic jams and leftovers for dinner. Should I tell them the day they get a tooth crowned could be the same day that alters their life forever?
Looking into the future it is impossible to see what your defining days will be, looking into the past however is a different story. Looking backwards it is easy to recognise that it is not the wedding day that changes your life, it is the day you realize you are truly, completely and devotedly in love with the person you are going to marry. It is not the day a person dies; it is the very first moment you reach out for them and realize they are not there. It is not the day your first child is born, it is the day you discover you are going to be a parent. Or it was for me, that moment changed my life forever. That day I saw my family in a mental picture that burned into my soul, that moment altered my path forever.
I’m sure it was a Sunday, we did most things on Sunday back in those years, it was the day we had together. I suspected we might be pregnant; at least that was our plan. I remember the anticipation of peeing on the stick, the instructions were committed to memory, this was one thing I wanted to be sure I was doing right. I wet the stick and waited for the hormones to seep across the test window; I held my breath and prayed. I did not blink, did not move from my seat or pull up my pants to look respectable if and when I could bound out of the bathroom and into the hallway to announce our news to Michael. I did not take my eyes off that home pregnancy test. We wanted a baby and I wasn’t going to miss the exact moment of finding out we were getting what we wanted. A three minute pregnancy test takes a lot longer than three minutes but when those two thin pink lines were finally staring me in the face my world froze. We were getting what we wanted. Except suddenly; I didn’t want a baby.
What I wanted was grown adults, a fabulous, well rounded, successful, compassionate family of grown adults. In that instant my mind had skipped right over diapers and 3am feedings to a long rustic parsons table in our home over-looking the lake. The table was surrounded by our grown children and their spouses. I could see some of them playing cards with Michael and laughing with his same easy sense of humor; that original charm that had drawn me into his world like a moth to a flame and made me fall in love with him. Some of us were perched around the large counter space peeling potatoes and hauling strawberries, working together to prepare dinner for the clan, sampling along the way. I could hear our grandchildren giggling and taunting one another as they ran in the halls and weaved through their parents’ legs and into the kitchen. I could see myself scooping one of them up as they darted past, plopping them on to the counter to snap the tips and tails off the green beans. The stereo in the back ground was muted useless by the drone of happy voices. This space was the embodiment of love and acceptance. I could see it in the gentle looks and the passing touches of familiarity. I could smell the home in our home, a reminiscent mingling of cinnamon, vanilla and smoke; it filled my heart to tears. I saw myself walking over to open the window allowing our laughter and love to bounce out beyond our walls, to dance across the water and infect the world beyond us. This was our family; I did not want to hide it from the world. I saw myself catching Mike’s knowing gaze and contented grin on my way back to my counter task. I felt the corners of my mouth turn up and mirror his, our hearts swollen with pride for what we were so very very blessed to enjoy. How could two young kids have gotten so lucky?
That was my picture, my picture was love. I could hear it, see it, smell it, taste it breath it in and let that breath back out again without fear of the vision disappearing. That is what I saw in my mind the moment I found out we were going to be parents. We were going to raise an amazing family! That was my defining moment, the instant I understood my life was not about me it was about that vision and every action from that very moment would be in pursuit of attainment.
I’ve neglected to ever ask Mike what his vision was the moment I bounced squealing out of the bathroom with tears in my eyes and waving that urine coated lab test. I guess I just always assumed his vision was exactly like mine. He could very well have been envisioning knitted blankets and booties, the 3am feedings and over-my-dead-body names to scratch off the list before I could contemplate them. Perhaps he had a vision of university tuition and loaning his car to teenagers. In that case I suspect he also had a mental map to the liquor store and a private place picked out to shed some tears. Maybe he had a greater mental picture of the future than I did. I suspect this to be true as proven through our adventure; he has taken more than his fair share of turns shining the light beyond the struggles at hand and onto the bigger picture.
What I did not know at the time of being frozen by my mental picture of parenthood was the significance of such a vivid visual representation of our goal. Only in the last ten years of our journey have I come to understand that tangible vision is how successful people get things done. If you truly want to be successful at anything, business, arts, music, sports any great endeavour, yes even parenting, you have to envision what that success ultimately looks like. What are you wearing? What are you eating? Who is by your side? Are you rich or are you poor? Are you healthy or are you sick? Do you have parrot on your shoulder or a dog on your lap? What do you smell? Where are you? What can you see if you look out of the window? What conversations are you having over diner? If you can’t imagine how it looks, smells, tastes and sounds how will you know when you’ve gotten there? How will you know that you have successfully reached your goal? You won’t, and what happens for a lot of people is that we allow ourselves to stop short of our heart’s desire because we are content enough and don’t know where our finish line is. People rarely ever think about over shooting their mark. So I understand now that the mental picture that burned into my brain the moment I confirmed that yes, there were indeed two lines in the window, is the major contributing factor to my ability to keep all the be-bees in the holes.Gratitude, for imaginations, pictured perfection and their power that forces me to dig deeper, try harder, be more accepting, love greater and be more patient when I would much rather share my feelings.
Gratitude as well for the understanding that what we might end up with instead of gazing together into a future of family togetherness and harmony, could be therapy retreats where our grown-up children can pummel us with sponge batons and hate on us constructively for bungling up their childhoods and leaving them bitter and neglected souls. That will be fun too!
Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be shared...enjoy your