September 29, 2008, a few minutes before candlelighting
Sooo last year already.
The holiday was minutes from beginning; our friends were minutes from arriving; I wasn't ready. I wasn't close to ready. Luckily, these enroute friends are the best kind of friends: the good-humored kind, the never-stand-on-ceremony kind, the also-parents-of-a 2.5-year-old kind. So I knew it would be okay if I was still setting the table as they arrived. I took my time getting the table ready. I filled the green glass apple bowl that I love so much with honey and I set it on the green and yellow apple-patterned glass platter that I love so much. I put two freshly baked challah loaves on the platter. I got down the little green glass apple platter that I love nearly as much as the large one and I set it beside its bigger cousin. I piled high the crispy bright slices of red apples on the small platter, and admired the beginning of the table.
E had been "helping" the whole time, of course. She watched me carefully arranging and just as I stepped back to appreciate the makings of our holiday, she added the giraffe. The giraffe is just a disposable drink mixer, but I've had him for years and he is very attractive to E as something she can handle while I'm puttering amongst the breakables. I had handed him to her to keep her hands busy, with the admonishment that "I like him very much, so be careful with him, okay?"
So I stepped back from the table, thinking this little arrangement was complete, and she darted up and added the giraffe. There! she said, very self-satisfied, and brushed her hands twice against each other and set them on her hips, in very good imitation of a caricature of a self-satisfied adult. The giraffe stayed on the table all night, adding his own benedictions to our new year's celebration. (Though his time was not spent only amongst the apples; he was also quite popular for cradling in two sets of stickly little two-year-old fists.)
In the orangey late-afternoon light that softly filled the room through the curtains, and amidst my anxiety about preparations, my exhaustion, and my little chatterbox companion, I felt time stop and really: I felt the strongest moment of clarity while staring at my amended arrangement. So clearly I saw those two plates. I had a thought in my head. It wasn't that I thought it; more it formed in my voice inside me.
this is the gift of the new year:
I saw the still un-set table, the challah that had formed more rustically than I had hoped, the still-a-little-wrinkly tablecloth that just minutes earlier, had caused me to lament if I'll ever be the hyper-organized kind of person I dream of being, the one who has time to iron wrinkled cloths, who has time to set the table in advance.
accept the imperfect.
I looked at the giraffe. My first instinct had been to say "no, sweetie," to remove him, to decide in such a boring, conventional way that he didn't belong.
embrace the whimsy.
Living with small children provides a lot of opportunities for whimsy, and so often I'm occupied with moving us along, completing the next task, cleaning up a mess, staying on schedule for bedtime.
So that's it. Two gifts, really. My voice should have used the plural, not the singular, but these are the gifts of my new year: accept imperfection, and embrace whimsy.
I thought about what a great little revelation kind of moment I had just had, how my mind and the circumstance had set me up with, essentially, two new year's resolutions. And I came back to full consciousness and tuned in to what my daughter was now saying just in time to hear her ask: Mama, now can I have something else you really like that I can hold?
Notice the little voice inside my head never mentioned as a gift anything related to the art of negotiation with my elder daughter. It never said spend your waking hours living a verbal soduku. Even magic voices know to quit while they're ahead.