The first I encountered in a book loaned to me long ago. Everyday Blessings had been collecting alarming amounts of dust on my bedside table until I picked it up and shook it off recently, opening to this quote:
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
So much of the work of parenting is negotiating (and accepting) the distances between our children and us: knowing when to draw closer, and when to refrain from drawing closer; figuring out how to be alone together and how to be together together. With toddlers it can be downright comical (pick me up! put me down!) but with older children there is more nuance to our fluctuating, back and forth intimacy. Right now, I think I need to hold my oldest a little closer and refrain from holding my youngest quite so tightly. Intuiting, being present, listening...the stuff of daily life easily knocks these modes of becoming attuned to those we love-and the distances between us!-right off the table. But under a blanket, watching the grey clouds gather outside, surrounded by the quiet of the first day of the year? Today, I can try to listen.
And here is the other quote that has been following me around. It's from Pish, Posh, said Hieronymous Bosch by Nancy Willard (a new favorite, recommended by the wise and lovely proprietress of Dutch Hill Farm). In the book, Hieronymous Bosch's housekeeper has been looking after him and all the bizarre creatures from his paintings (that also live with him) and it's too much. Fed up, she packs her bag and flees, only to discover 22 miles down the road that some of the creatures, unwilling to be parted from her, have stowed away in her suitcase. She throws up her hands in resignation and smiles down at them all, saying:
They're not what I wished for: When women are young
they want curly-haired daughters and raven-haired sons.
In this vale of tears we must take what we're sent,
feathery, leathery, lovely or bent.
Oh, I love these lines. We don't get what we wish for; children (and all sorts of loved ones, for that matter) simply arrive. They are who they are, and there's not much we can do but love them in their singularity and strangeness. Why fight it? Let's take what we're sent! I am hoping to channel that housekeeper's bemused, accepting affection with my dear ones in 2012. Because really, that which sometimes makes them insufferable also makes them extraordinary! They're figuring it out, and I could stand to allow them a bit more space for all the necessary stumbles along the way. Plus, they're a heck of a lot cuter than Bosch's two-headed bats and pickle-winged fish.
Happy new year to all of you! May this year bring you peace, happiness, and the grace and good humor to enjoy all that you're sent.