Marshmallows

I buy marshmallows in preparation for the event I don’t want to think about.

I pick them up randomly; they are not on my grocery list, but yet they are – an imperative to help my family through a troubling time. Who would have thought something with so little nutritional value would help heal souls?

We hear the news on a Thursday morning – our dear friend Carolyn has passed away. She passed away late Wednesday night, peacefully.

We are sad all of Thursday. Coincidentally, the fish dies, and we have mourning for that too; we have bad days at work and school. We are a family that misses our friend – Aunt Carolyn, our family friend who’s seen our children since they were babies. Aunt Carolyn, who taught my husband to drive at 16. Aunt Carolyn – who had been one of my confidantes and probably the best supporter of my writing efforts. Aunt Carolyn – the person who truly put people first and was always there to help. Aunt Carolyn – the one with whom an open door literally meant that “just call so I know you’re coming” and was always excited to see you and talk to you. Aunt Carolyn – the “old lady” that in my mind, was never old – always curious, still going out and drinking wine with her friends (in her later years after her husband died-it was always with the guys.) Aunt Carolyn – the one who could get lost in a paper bag (she owned this happily) she was so terrible with directions (right there with her) and finally, Aunt Carolyn – a kind, warm, loving and lively soul who never let you forget how much she cared about you, loved you fierce.

So, that evening when we were all in states of disappointment, exhaustion, sadness and just beat down by the world, I pulled out the marshmallows. Months before, we had introduced Aunt Carolyn to our culinary masterpiece, PB&J with marshmallows in the middle. I know, I know – too much sugar. But at times like this, you think about just how short and sometimes unfair life is, and by golly, having a little white cloud in your PB&J seems foolishly hopeful and happy, and sometimes that’s not a bad reminder on how to live life.

One of the last visits with Aunt Carolyn before she got sick was an indoor picnic – where we brought our culinary prowess of PB&J & marshmallows and of course, she acted like a kid, excited beyond belief; that this sandwich was of course the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was delicious, she said, happy as a clam and full of joy like she’d just been to the finest restaurant; just the thing she needed, she said, and made my children so excited to be around her, she was so enthusiastic and childlike about it all.. Gosh, how I miss her.

So on Thursday night, full of a mess of so many emotions, we sat and ate PB&J and marshmallows, in remembrance and honor of such a dear friend. All of us, silently  hoping that we’d done justice to the love she’d shown us; that we were able to send all that love back to her too in equal measure, with hope that she had carried this with her into the great wide yonder.

And just like that, marshmallows have become a little more elevated in our household. And of course, have a permanent place on our grocery list.

Godspeed, Aunt Carolyn.

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Deep happiness

Thanks to gubgib for the image.
Thanks to gubgib for the image.

I am happy.

It’s taken me so long to say that, but I am finally happy, in a way that is deeply joyful, happy in a way that feels more like long-lasting joy than happiness in say, finding the perfect pair of shoes which so often the sort of short, temporal lift I get when thinking about life and happiness—it all feels so fleeting.

This all occurred to me several mornings ago when I woke up, randomly, at 2:30am.  And I wasn’t wide awake, but sort of woke up with a jolt, and couldn’t go back to bed right away.

So, I thought about some things, thought about some other things, and then thought about just at that moment, how deeply blessed and grateful I was for this life, this exact life.  Which, if you’re anything like me, is amazing.  If you’re anything like me, some days you wish for someone else’s life, maybe someone who has it more together, is more organized, is less prone to over think and more naturally joyful.

If you’re anything like me,you tend to think your life needs to be a lot more Pinterest and Facebook-worthy, just some how a more beautiful and Photoshopped version of what you have and who you are, and before you know it, the comparison bug is biting you in the leg again.

But this morning was different.  It was a true appreciation for exactly where I am now, for exactly what I have now, and no, we’ve haven’t just all the sudden become millionaires. No, our lives are suddenly perfect.  Yes, there is still confusion and chaos and disappointment and disorganization running rampantly and abundantly in our lives.

But this feeling, this thought was so real and tangible I wanted to hold it, keep it forever: a deep, simple of sense of gratitude and contentment for a wonderful husband, this strange and yet familiar relationship of being a wife, parent, and a person maybe finally becoming comfortable in her own skin.

And knowing that all of this is good, even knowing what I know is to inevitable come: more temper tantrums, dirty diapers, loose teeth, arguments, sibling rivalry, work-life balance negotiations, difficult choices and going through growing pains and all the other things that come with what it means to be a family.

That this is good, come changes in fortune, luck, seasons and those days I blatantly misjudge and  feel like I’m getting the backhand of God instead of the usual open-handed fullness I feel from Him.

That this is good, no matter what changes or what stays annoyingly the same, that this, this mess and beauty that is life, is all good.

And I’ve been taken aback at how this feeling was so refreshingly simple, deep, and yet so full all at the same time.

All my life I’ve been chasing at meaning, happiness, grasping empty-handed at this full-of-life feeling, vivacity, like it was some complicated algorithm that I was never going to be smart enough to understand.

And I’ve realized now, it’s not. Not that complicated. The one who has complicated it has been me. This feeling-it’s just a deep appreciation for where you are, with who you are, and who you are with, regardless of how many piles of laundry that it brings, how many toddler negotiations you have to deal with, regardless of the dust, clutter, dancing and weeping and all that comes with, some days like unfriendly barnacles, the joy of family life.

Simple happiness.  Dare I say contentedness. Who would have guessed?