75: Everyday Miracles

75: Everyday Miracles

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Everyday Miracles

Why, who makes much of a miracle? As to me I know of nothing else but miracles.

~Walt Whitman

Six a.m. Already I’m going over my daily to-do list in my mind. The garage door rumbles open, then closes again, telling me my husband has left for work.

I knock on my youngest son’s bedroom door. An adolescent groan emerges from the shape under the covers.

Downstairs, I open the back door, flip on the patio light and let the dog out. He hesitates for a moment, then clambers on his short legs down the snow-coated steps. I watch him scramble over the snowdrifts into the dark backyard to do what needs to be done. I know just how you feel, old buddy, I think.

Next I unload last night’s dishes from the dishwasher. But wait — no sounds from upstairs. “I don’t hear the shower yet!” I shout, tired of my own voice, tired of the words I’ve repeated just about every morning since before this child was born.

Same old same old.

Sometimes it feels as if I’ve been waking kids up for school for a lifetime. Actually about twenty-two years. And because my three sons are widely spaced in age, I still have three and a half more years until my youngest graduates from high school.

Thunk.

Good. He’s up. Next I have to throw some salt on the driveway, warm up the car and scrape the ice off the windshield. And the dog is barking to come in. But first, I check the yellow sticky notes I’ve posted all over the kitchen to remind my middle-aged brain of all the humdrum errands I’m supposed to do this humdrum day: “Get gas,” “Go to ATM,” “DON’T FORGET: Bananas, eggs, bread, something for dinner?”

My son and I run through our usual morning drama, me playing the part of the cuckoo clock (“It’s 6:25! We’ve got five minutes!”) and my son moving as if in slow motion (“I’m coming!”). Somehow by 6:32, we’re in the minivan. I back the car down the driveway, headlights glaring into the gray mist, to meet the carpool.

But this morning, something is different.

It happens three-quarters of the way to the house where the car-pool meets. The fog hovers over the piles of snow left by the snow-plows. Suddenly I don’t recognize the street signs. Was that shopping center always there?

I’m lost.

“Wake up, Mom! You missed the turn!”

“I did?”

“I can’t believe it! You’re going to make me late!”

“Wait a minute,” I look around, panicky, trying to get my bearings. Everything looks wrong. I’m really lost.

Leaning over, my son points the way. “Turn here, Mom. And now there. See? Here we are.”

I pull up to the house, relieved to be on time (well, almost).

“Sorry, buddy,” I say to my son.

“You gotta pay attention, Mom!” he scolds, as if he’s the grown-up.

I drive home in the haze, pull the car into the driveway — and stop. Inside the house, there’s a computer and a wall full of sticky notes waiting for me, but I sit still, staring at the crust of dirty snow that has petrified on the flowerbeds. After all these years my brain has turned to mush.

But this is something else. My son is right — I was half asleep. Like a robot, I’d been going through the motions I’ve gone through every day for years, and didn’t even notice where I was.

This is exactly what I promised myself I’d never do, on that spring day twenty-six years before. I was eight months pregnant with my first child. I knelt in the soil of my garden, planting pansies, my cheeks flushed with sweat, fresh air, and the possibilities of life. A friend passed by and, seeing me hauling my pregnant self into a standing position, she called out, “Hey! I bet you’ll be happy when the pregnancy is over.”

“Oh no,” I blurted out, “I’m happy right now!” Even as I said it, I realized it was true. I didn’t want to hurry time. I wanted to hold onto it and savor it like the first bite of dessert.

As the seasons flowed, I heard these words in many voices, “I’ll be happy when the baby sleeps through the night!” “I’ll be happy when we move into the new house.” “I wish the winter was over!” “I can’t wait until the kids go back to school!”

“Don’t wish it away,” I whispered to myself, over and over. I taught my kids this lesson along with their bedtime stories. Happiness isn’t something out there, beyond the next obstacle, like “happily ever after” in a storybook. Happiness is right here, right now.

And yet, this morning in the carpool, I forgot. I wasn’t paying attention. I’d done the same things every day, until they became rote, invisible, just items on a to-do list to check off in my mind.

Shaking my head, I resist the memory of me in all my ditziness, circling the neighborhood, lost, five minutes from home on our way to a place where we go every morning. My son’s voice echoes in my mind, “You’re going to make me late!”

I’m going to make him late? Suddenly the whole situation strikes me as so funny that I laugh out loud. What a ridiculous little comedy of errors we’ve just performed! I sit in my car, laughing to myself.

As I laugh, I glance to one side. The sun is rising. Its warm rays burn away the fog, smearing the sky with purple light. I sit where I am and watch the dawn unfold — an everyday miracle I could easily have missed.

What else did I almost miss today? So many things I take for granted: our health, our home, the seasons, the dependable sound of my husband leaving for work, the comedy of our little dog climbing the snowdrifts, the thunk of our son’s feet landing next to his bed, his sulky teenage presence in the passenger seat of my car. Each of these things has happened many mornings before — but they won’t go on forever. Even tomorrow they won’t be quite the same. Suddenly I ache with love and longing for the blessed details of the life I already lead.

In the flowerbed in front of me, a tiny green crocus reaches up to pierce the crust of snow, as if to sniff for the slightest hint of spring. I make an imaginary sticky note and stick it on my brain: “DON’T FORGET: Happiness is here and now.” And with that simple change, I embrace the everyday miracles unfolding all around me. All I have to do is stop and take notice.

~Faith Paulsen

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