Henry’s prayer the other night:
“Dear God, thank you for my family and my friends…and my dead fish, who really did live with us for a long time [two years]. Please help the people who have a hard time seeing their blessings…even me, really.”
Sometimes it takes a nine-year-old (though his soul is so much older) to remind a rather crabby, complainy, self-pitying suburban Mama to be more grateful. Of course that would be ever-so-much easier if I didn’t have to clean up so much poop, but the lesson is still a good one.
We have had at least 15 showings since our house went on the market and each one takes years off my life. The laundry is done every day, the beds are made every day, I vacuum and dust and clean the glass every day. It’s unnatural. I don’t think I’ve cooked a meal that really tastes like anything for over a month, lest the scent of garlic or spices linger and offend the delicate senses of a potential buyer. I caught Lizzie snoozing on the floor in her room the other day and when I asked her why she wasn’t resting on her bed, she said “I didn’t want to make any lumps.”
So I’m sure you understand why I want the whole shit show over with. Last night I thought it might be –there was a second showing scheduled from 7:00 to 8:00. I prepped the hell out of this place –dusted, vacuumed, threw the windows open, placed a big gorgeous hydrangea plant in the dining room to make it look like a plant could actually survive in there (it couldn’t), polished and yelled at my husband and disinfected and shrieked at my children and smoothed and cursed the assholes who hadn’t bought our house yet and shined and ranted about all the tantrum-throwing, women-hating jackasses poisoning our culture lately until the whole place looked gorgeous and I looked like Charlize Theron in Monster.
Sometimes it takes a nine-year-old (though his soul is so much older) to remind a rather crabby, complainy, self-pitying suburban Mama to be more grateful.
Then I went over to my mom’s house to drink and eat dinner. And wait. And drink. And do you want to know what those seven-o-clock-on-a-fucking-Sunday-scheduling assholes did? They chose someone else’s house to buy. Assholes. I hate them. Wait, what was I writing about? Oh yes…gratitude. And blessings.
I can acknowledge that I’m one of the people Henry is praying for. Well, me and the tantrum-throwing, women-hating jackasses –they can’t see their blessings either. I know blessings are a popular idea right now –rain is supposed to be a blessing, money and newborn babies and starry nights and finding what you thought you lost are all supposed to be blessings –but I don’t think blessings are objects or experiences or even people.
I think blessings are the divine gifts –love, faith, hope, charity, gratitude, humility– that transform and give meaning to objects and experiences and relationships. They’re not really something you see, they’re a way of seeing, they are the light itself. Blessings are like flashlights, so no wonder they’re so easy to lose track of –who ever remembers where they left the stupid thing last time they used it? It’s easier to go out and get a new one than find the one you misplaced, except there’s really only one flashlight in everyone’s life. You ever noticed that? No matter which one I’m using, it shines the same light, made up of all the places and objects and people I’ve ever illuminated with every flashlight I’ve ever used. Flashlights, like all light, like all blessings, have shared memory.
Every time I turn on the blue Maglite we keep in our laundry room (I think), I see every path and field and dock and cabin at Camp Lake Hubert with it, every house I’ve ever lived in, every campsite in the Boundary Waters, every inch of the dark road to and from our cabins at Family Camp that I’ve walked with every one of my cousins at some point or another, the unfamiliar woods I traveled through with Mary last September when we went to art camp.
I think blessings are the divine gifts –love, faith, hope, charity, gratitude, humility– that transform and give meaning to objects and experiences and relationships.
It doesn’t matter that I didn’t have the blue Maglite then; it’s the light that remembers. That’s how blessings are –they connect you to your memories, your experiences, the places and people who matter most, and then connect them to each other. “Seeing your blessings” isn’t really accurate; blessings are the light by which we see everything else. The term should be “seeing WITH blessings” and it’s a discipline, keeping track of that light and remembering to bring it with you.
I know this. I know that if I consistently shine faith and love and gratitude on these tense weeks, then I’ll be able to wander around the haunted house I’m trying to sell and see more than the shadows and ghosts. I’ll see GramBea, my mom, my aunts and girl cousins sitting around my kitchen table eating brunch the day after Christmas; Brian and Caroline snuggled on the couch after one of Caroline’s EEGs, the glue still in her hair, a tender, slightly broken-hearted but still optimistic expression on her daddy’s face (he was right); Henry tucked into his parents’ big bed, a little sister on each side, reading them a book and asking thoughtful little questions (“what’s that? Yes, that’s cheese. Good! What color is the cheese?”); my dad playing tickle spider with my kids by the front door; Julie doing my dishes, helping me clean up, holding me on the laundry room floor when I had just come back from Kyle’s memorial service.
I’ll see all of that with the same light that comes from Camp Lake Hubert and Family Camp and all the other places I’ve called home and all the people who inhabited those places. And I’ll see that even this dark house has given me some new light to bring with me, by which to see the next one.