Today something special happened to me. I made time for my friend. It is not something that I tend to do, but I am learning. We went to lunch and as I watched her tender face light up while she explained a short story she was working on, I wanted to hold the moment- just freeze it there in blissful ice. For two hours we sat under the umbrella of friendship, chewing on our life’s stories with the beef and vegetable soup.
Between the two of us, Veloy has lived longer. She recently turned ninety. Her age is more than her weight of eight-four pounds. She has been a widow for almost two decades. We call each other soul sisters. She loves drama and writing and has won poetry contests. She loves motorcycles and recently took a Harley ride through the mountains to see the autumn leaves. Veloy was a magician’s assistant to her husband for forty years, so she mastered disappearing, being dismembered, reassembled, and keeping a secret. She has traveled the world and caught joy everywhere she went. When her husband passed, she was able to keep her head afloat by selling their vast antique collection – including two horse-drawn hearses, a post office, an original firetruck, a square piano, two trains, and a cannon. She said, “I have had some hard times, but I’ve had a good life. I recently started writing down all the good moments I had in my life. When you focus on those, everything seems to be better and you forget about the hard times.” I asked her to tell me more.
She told me about the pet chicken she had as a child that followed her everywhere she went. It happened to be the same name as her future husband – Herman. She told me about being bitten on the finger by a monkey and having to go to her Dad and trying to explain. She talked about the last days in the hospital with Herman. As I listened to her, I reflected on the favorite moments in my life. Jodi Picoult said, “Do you know how there are moments when the world moves so slowly you can feel your bones shifting, your mind tumbling? When you think that no matter what happens to you for the rest of your life, you will remember every last detail of that one minute forever?” One minute is not long, but it is enough. It is enough time to pull you out of the day to day running and pushing and pulling that we do from the moment our feet hit the ground to when we pull them back under the covers.
It’s called transcendence. They are moments as thin as a razor’s edge.
The first time I tasted a Belgian chocolate in Brugge, my legs went weak and I had to lean against a wall to finish it off because I was so overwhelmed by the taste. It was like all the first kisses of the universe wrapped under gold foil. Once someone I loved ran his finger along my collarbone and it burned like fire. The night before I left Florence, Italy, I sat on an ancient wall with my legs wrapped around my boyfriend and we watched the stars reflect on the Arno river. They seemed like fireworks because my tears blended the light and water like a watercolor painting. I’ve awakened to find my toddler’s face close to mine and the morning lavender light highlighting his innocence and sleep so perfectly that I never wanted the moment to end. I remember one particular favorite moment when I had finished doing a show as a second-rate actor and as I was driving away from the venue, I had the distinct feeling that if I turned left my life would go one way (toward a relationship) and if I turned right, my life would go another direction (to the unknown), and I got to choose. I paused at the stop-sign and in the beauty of that gift from God and got to ask myself what I really wanted. I turned left and have been with that man every day since for the last twenty-three years.
I don’t seem to put much importance on the quotidian tasks of my life, but if I could string my favorite moments together over the last (almost) forty-seven years, I think I would see that my inner life was more magical than anything I could have dreamed of when I was young. My inner and outer lives run on parallel tracks, both with different destinations. When they do happen to cross, the moment hangs in the air like a round ripe apple on a tree. I get to pick it and put it in my collection basket. (As Veloy entitled her winning poem), I become a “memory merchant” and like Veloy, I could say, “It’s been a beautiful life.”
Remember, they are called moments because they do not last very long, but the “small silent moments are the true story-making events of our lives.” (Douglas Coupland)
Describe to me one of your favorite moments (and make it last):