Cindy Bargell: Give me a (spring) ‘brake!’
As I smiled at the teachers and parents at my kids’ school and wished everyone a great spring break, I secretly wondered . . . why exactly is it called a break?
My first thought is that they’re call breaks because, before it’s all over I have threatened, to break their sweet little necks (figuratively speaking, of course). Or perhaps that when 8 inches of snow arrives in April, many of us are ready for a nervous break down. And, I admit I feel just a little bit of the green monster creep in when one of the teachers excitedly extols her plans hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Despite my best imaginative effort, my hikes up to my home office bear little resemblance. But, I remind myself of my plans to relax on the beach in sunny Mexico (all the while blocking the fact that this might involve putting on a bathing suit) and began to look forward to Spring Break.
While contemplating the trip during my daily meditation, (between approximately 6 a.m. when my eyes open and 6:07 a.m. when my daughters come looking for errant homework, socks and swim bag), I catch myself wondering if this time off really reflects a small spelling error, one of life’s Freudian slips, and instead should bear the name Spring Brake. A time to put on the brakes, and pay attention to those cliches that typically make my eyes roll with such fervor that I’m afraid they’ll stick in the back of my head – such as “they grow up so fast” or better still “live in the moment.”
So, how does one apply the brakes? In a recent column published in Sunset Magazine, author Anne Ann Lamott extols the virtue of taking time for wonder. It reminded me of our first tropical trip with the kids years ago to Jamaica. My husband was feeling sorry for me (and a bit threatened) after we had two girls in a period of 13 months. So, off we headed to Jamaica with a 1-year-old and a 5-month-old in tow. I can remember slathering on baby sun screen, buying tie-dye in extra small and watching my husband delight the kids with near-death experiences in the pool. It was wonderful. A number of years later we all went to Mexico, and I remember seeing the girls in wonder at the huge leaves on the trees and the lizards on the sidewalk. Now, as the girls approach adolescence (lord, help me please) I realize I will not always have this time to break with them. I bet most parents can recall a time or a trip with kids over a break that makes you want to smile or cry, or do both simultaneously. I make a pact with myself to appreciate the time away, no matter what.
“What” turned out to be the startling lack of sun and afternoon rains in sunny Mexico that I was certain bordered on tsunamis. Not what I expected. Through the storms, however, I learned that kids have the great gift of not having expectations. No sun? Snorkeling is even cooler when you can watch the rain hit the water. Torrential downpour? Great for standing in – with the singular purpose of getting drenched. The children found wonder in the rain because they opened themselves up – and so, unexpectedly, they gave me the gift of wonder. They became my teachers showing me that life is better when you let go of expectation and give in to the flow of existence.
A Greek proverb states “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” And, although I’m still looking for an inspiring quote on expectation, I have a developing interest in wonder. As Dr. Todd Kashton puts it in his book “Curiosity,” I would like to go through a day and “assume or presume nothing except that novelty exists everywhere.” My plan is not to wonder if I’ll make it through the day, but instead to take some time to do wonder-filled things. To grow some bulbs indoors. To send a “Welcome Spring” card to my aunt just to wonder if makes her smile. My hope is to put on the brakes and savor the wonder of spring in Summit County, it will never arrive again in the exact same fashion.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card carrying PTSA member, lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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