We recently helped our kids refinish the hardwood floors on their new (old) house. Having done this twice before, I told the kids not to worry. There would be times when the heavy belt sander would decide to dance a jig across the floor or dig a groove all on its own. Embrace these things other people would consider flaws. They add character.
These little blemishes are the brushstrokes of character, the nuances that show age and authenticity. (They’re also inescapable, so it’s much better to embrace them than to kick yourself for years to come.)
Embracing the adventure
I recently realized I employ the same philosophy regarding travel. Something Always Happens. My grown-up kids can recount the number of times Wanda, our (relatively) trusty ’84 Jeep Cherokee, broke down on family vacations. (Umpteen times, I believe the number is.)
Then there’s the night (well before the kids arrived) when Nonna and I arrived on the last train of the night in the picturesque village of Hartfield, England to discover that (a) the campground described in our guidebook didn’t exist, (b) there were no hotels or B&Bs in this small British village, and (c) the station master advised us our best bet was to unroll our sleeping bags in a farmer’s field and hope the farmer was friendly.
However (and here’s the point) when Things Happen you can either moan and whine, or Embrace the Adventure. In this instance, a young man who was on our train overheard our conversation with the station guy, and asked us what brought us to Hartfield. We explained that we were big fans of Winnie the Pooh, and were there to look for A.A. Milne’s house.
“Well, our farm backs up to Pooh Bridge, and if you don’t mind waiting, you can pitch a tent in our yard.” We gratefully agreed, and soon discovered that the young man was returning from South Africa, where he had been living until he received notice that he would be required to do military service enforcing apartheid. This was his homecoming, and he and his family welcomed these two daft Yanks with open arms. They introduced us to British ale, and probably giggled as we attempted to erect our tent after a pint. The next morning his Mum, who worked as a milkmaid, prepared us a huge British breakfast, and then the young man gave us a tour of the Hundred Acre Wood, complete with Owl's Tree and Pooh Bridge.
The point is, that was a grand adventure, and makes a much better story than any alternative. If it hadn’t been for the Bad Thing Happening, we wouldn’t have gotten to play Pooh sticks where Christopher Robin did.
To make matters worse, this morning we discovered that our flight back to the States ten days from now is cancelled.
In times like these, one can freak out, whine and moan, or embrace the adventure. Really. I’ve heard about the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918, and here we’re living through something unfortunately like it. In Spain.
A couple of long phone calls with the airline blessed us with what appears to be a return flight home five days from now. (Good thing – I mentioned to Nonna that I wasn’t looking forward to spending 10 (or more) days of enforced quarantine in this little studio apartment. Heck, I wasn’t sure we’d both be alive after eight days. “Pffth!” she said. “Three days.” )
One of the secrets of successful parenting is embracing these Unexpected Plot Twists. People will find themselves unemployed. Accidents will happen. As painful as they may be, I say we ought to embrace those unexpected plot twists to the best of our natures. Along with the triumphs, there will be disasters. In every hardwood floor, there will be a gouge. But in its own way, those gouges contribute to the house’s beauty.
LIFE IS MESSY - that's what makes it wonderful
That character, those adventures, the inevitable plot twists are what makes for an authentic, wonderful life. As Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz, screenwriters of Parenthood write, “Life is messy.” But that’s part of its charm.
Life’s a roller coaster. Enjoy the ride.
If you haven’t already watched the 1989 movie Parenthood, do so NOW, during your enforced quarantine. If you’ve already seen it, you may watch this spoiler: Parenthood clip. You’re welcome!