Six years ago yesterday,
I stood beneath the water at Elk Creek Falls, Idaho and proposed to Miranda.
We were living in someone’s garage in Moscow, Idaho that summer. I was earning my masters; she was working. Everything was simple. My British Literature Class required me to read at least one epic text like Pride and Prejudice or Great Expectations a week. The days were filled with heady class discussions, then I’d ride my bike to the shade of some tree, or to the coffee house, and read all afternoon.
Our schedules allowed us to take 3-day weekend trips that summer. We’d camp. I’d fly-fish in the Clearwater National Forest. We visited her family in Montana, watched a rodeo on the Fourth of July.
We drove across America in her tiny Suzuki with three suitcases, camping gear, a bird, and a large pointer-mix named Drake. This was a poor choice in animal companions. Still—life was simple.
The decision to buy the ring and propose was easy. I never doubted I wanted to share my life with her. I still don’t. We got married in a fever as the man in black used to sing. The fever remained as we quickly bought a house, a dog, and had our first child. We move fast as partners, and as people.
Life remained simple when we were back in Idaho—again for the summer, again for my masters. She was pregnant, and working. We drove back across Canada this time: camping under the glacial peaks in Banff, rolling through the Calgary Stampede, and dining out in Toronto before visiting Niagara Falls.
On the last leg of the trip home to Maryland, we set down the Goodson Household’s Parental Commandments. I’m not kidding, this was the title of a word document I just pulled up.
Looking back, I believe we both shared a hope that our simple lives and the simple ways we felt about each other could be maintained with a little will power, as if all those parents running around with peanut butter on their shirts and bags under their eyes never thought to draft a contractual arrangement to keep it simple.
We drafted 11 commandments without thinking we were one-upping Moses. What we didn’t see coming was that real life gets complicated. It’s like someone who doesn’t own a car telling you his theory on how to change a tire.
Here are the first 3 commandments we agreed on. Reading them six years later we shared a hearty laugh, rooted in the irony that once we became parents we never again had time to look at them, let alone implement them. It is a nice practice in how different theory is from real life application.
I don’t blame us for being naive. Who could blame Karl Marx for wanting the workers of the world to unite?
- Commandment #1: The TV is to be used minimally, not in excess as a calming technique or babysitting tool.
Real Life Application: TV is the best babysitter. It is virtually free, and your toddler has a drastically lower probability of hitting it if it doesn’t give him what he wants.
- Commandment #2: Once they reach the appropriate age to perform a task, they are responsible for attempting its competition. Once successfully completed, it becomes their responsibility.
Real Life Application: My almost-4-year-old has been able to get himself dressed for a year running now. Guess who helped him dress this morning? Left on his own, the boy dramatizes a different episode of Rescue Bots in between each article of clothing. Putting clothes on becomes a 5-act Shakespearean drama. In real life, I’ve got to get to work. If I get to work late but without peanut butter on my shirt, I’m winning.
- Commandment #3: Live our lives and take them with us whenever possible. Engage them in our daily tasks and routines. The child will not dictate the schedule.
Real Life Application: This commandment was nearly kept, until we naively penned that the “child will not dictate the schedule.” I wonder if we knew the irony of using the root-word of dictatorship in our statement of purpose to be in charge of our home. We are slaves to our children’s schedules.
We broke every commandment. In theory, it looks like we’re losing something—losing that simple life; losing that ability to sit and read an epic British novel all afternoon; losing that freedom to go fly-fishing in Montana’s National Forests; losing the peace of that waterfall where I proposed to my wife.
And in real life application: we are.
But what I never could have imagined is what I stood to gain. The miracle of the mundane is about those moments in the midst of chaos that raise us up beyond the fray—so you can see the brilliance of real life.
It is those slants of light that surprise you through the window shade on an overcast afternoon; those realizations that life is this beautiful juggernaut that takes us for a ride if we let it.
It causes all the pettiness and complication to dissolve away—like the big black ether in between the stars.
It is those epiphanies that we are exactly where we need to be, and we are doing exactly what we should be doing; the feeling that life writhed and squirmed and suffered for billions of years in order for this—one—moment…
Gryphons Aren’t so Great is a children’s book in a series featuring a young knight and his pet horse Edward. When the young knight gets a new pet gryphon, Edward gets Jealous. Edward dawns a cape and mask to get his friend’s attention back. When the young knight falls off the gryphon, Edward leaps to save him. “Y-You SAVED me! But how?! Horses Can’t fly?” The knight and Edward then plummet into the water: “SPLASH!”
On our first reading, my son and I laughed so hard our ribs were vibrating. For whatever reason, it was one of the funniest things I had read or seen in my life. We laughed together for at least 30 seconds.
Reading epic novels alone all afternoon brought me great satisfaction. In theory, it still would.
But sharing a case of the giggles with my son over some immature children’s book? That is a miracle.
What’s your moment? When have you been filled with appreciation for life?
(This is not a rhetorical question. Please let me know. Email me at Goodson dot Mark @ Gmail dot com
I’d like to know your moment, and maybe give it a shout out.)