Monday, October 13, 2014

The Beauty of Ordinary Days

"Well, that's what life is - this collection of extraordinarily ordinary moments. We just need to pay attention to them all. Wake up and pay attention to how beautiful it all is." -Alexander Payne

About half way through the movie Nebraska, I started realizing just about every character resembled someone either I knew or remembered from my childhood.  I was a little bored up until that point, but was a captive audience as it was a limited selection on a transatlantic flight, and I was wide awake.  The basic premise is a man thinks he has won a grand prize, and is intent to go claim it, despite his age and deteriorating health.  His son agrees to take him, and they end up bonding in an ordinary, yet unexpected way for both of them. I felt my mind drifting, remembering some of the events that were part of my life.  Well actually, none would be considered an event, but rather moments, ingrained in my memory.  Since losing my parents, mom four years ago, and dad two years ago, the memories while bittersweet, in looking back, become simply beautiful moments.

I'm old enough to remember the days before pump your own filling stations, and my dad pulling up to the pump Sunday mornings after church, filling the car for my mom for the week ahead.  There was one station with the "hot"  pump attendant, and getting a look at him while he used the soapy water and squeegee to clean the windows. While he was  beautiful to look at, the real beauty was in the weekly ritual, which meant my mom didn't have to start Monday morning, or any other morning with a stop at the gas station, an ordinary action that in its meaning was anything but ordinary.

I remember the memorial day services, and meeting up with other family friends for hot dogs and pop, at the VFW club later in the day.  These men, friends, more like brothers,  of my dad's, were of the Greatest Generation, WWII vets. I remember walking down to the same VFW club after middle school sports, where my mom sometimes, not often, stopped for a little beverage instead of going home after work, saving a trip back into town. If we weren't in a hurry, she would sit and visit with friends sipping her sloe gin and orange juice, while my sister and I munched on Old Dutch potato chips and a coke from the mixer gun, freezing cold over ice.  I remember wedding receptions of my sisters, and anniversary parties for my parents in the back social hall.  There is still a VFW post in our small town, but the cost of upkeep, and diminishing interest in a "club" meant the post sold the bar and accompanying hall, no longer deemed fancy enough for the weddings of today. The vets now meet in a space in a strip mall.

Being 10 of us kids, one of us was often the acolyte on Christmas morning, as my dad ushered. I remember my dad being beside me one Christmas morning, when I woke up in the little overflow room next to the church sanctuary, after fainting in the front of the church.  I was the acolyte, lighting the Christmas morning candles.  I foolishly wore a  new hot sweater, underneath the acolyte robe, which added to a crowded church, meant a recipe for disaster.

 My mom, each summer, used one of her precious vacation weeks, to  support our 4-H activities around the county fair.  As we girls were the ultimate procrastinators, it was not uncommon to be sewing a hem, or wrapping a loaf of bread the morning of judging.  She would get us to and from the fairgrounds, and take a full day shift working the 4-H lunch counter with us as well.  My parents were not particularly demonstrative, but they created beautiful moments in ordinary days. 

My dad found the styles his grand kids wore in his later years a bit perplexing.  He always got a chuckle at seeing the girls in their name brand blue jeans with fashionable wear and tear on new models. My daughter was running late yesterday morning to church, and threw on an old pair of comfortable jeans.  The jeans were clean, but even by our own casual contemporary worship standards, a bit "holier" than I would have liked. She sat and played with a hole in her knee during the sermon.  The words of my dad came in my head and I wrote my daughter a little note on the pew note pad. "Grandpa would be wondering if you paid for those holes."  She smiled, and wrote back.  "No he would have said, 'I could have made those holes and saved you a bunch of money."  I smiled, but felt a tear in the corner of my eye.

That's my dad and me in one of the "big moments".


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