Archive | December, 2012

Normal Can Be Amazing

31 Dec

Husband and I were fortunate enough to have a date night this weekend, during which we went and saw Les Miserables. (IT WAS AMAZING – in spite of Russell Crowe – but that’s neither here nor there.) Before the movie actually began, we were forced to sit through a barrage of advertisements. I’m normally pretty good at chewing my candy loud enough to save my eardrums (and brain) from the onslaught of jingles and slogans, but this time there was one that I couldn’t help but notice. It was an advertisement for Mini Cooper cars, and it began by highlighting the humdrum lives of most individuals before switching to showing how owning a Mini could make one’s life exciting. The slogan was: Normal Can Never Be Amazing. (The commercial in question plays automatically when you visit this site if you’re curious.)

Firstly, I take issue in general with the word “normal.” What is “normal?” What’s normal to me most certainly is not what’s normal to everyone, or anyone, else. But, that’s another blog entirely. Let’s pretend, for an instant, that we can agree on a stereotypical concept of normal. My life, for example, would be considered by most to be normal. I was raised in a suburb by a mother and a father with a younger brother. I graduated high school, went to college, got married and had a child. I have a house, a dog, a cat, a car and a job. To use a line from Nicholas SparksThe Notebook, “I am no one special, just a common man with common thoughts. I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me, and my name will soon be forgotten.” That’s me in a nutshell. Pretty much as “normal” as they come.

If the Mini Cooper folks had their way, I would be dismayed about this. I would agree that yes, my life can not be amazing. Clearly the answer to this is to purchase a foreign and freakishly tiny car. Fortunately for me and my wallet, I could not disagree more. My life is normal, but it is also amazing.

Agreeing to spend the rest of your life loving and cherishing another, in sickness and in health, is an amazing declaration. Love is amazing. Seeing the little plus sign appear for the first time on a pregnancy test is many things. Scary, exciting, thrilling and yes, amazing. Prenatal tests that come back with the actual word “normal” printed on them are about as amazing as they come. Don’t even get me started on the sound of a child crying for the first time or the sight of a baby taking his first steps. All of these things are astounding, breathtaking, marvelous, miraculous, spectacular, stupendous, wonderful, wondrous and absolutely without a doubt amazing. They are also, blessedly, normal.

The appearance of this commercial in my life is timely. My students and I have had several conversations lately about what the difference is between something that’s ordinary and something that’s extraordinary. (Thanks to Patricia MacLachlan and her books for the fodder for this discussion.) The answer, I think, is nothing. Things that are ordinary are extraordinary in their frequency, endurance and presence in our lives. Normal lives are amazing because they exist at all. My life is amazingly normal, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Beauty in Snowflakes and Memories in Songs

25 Dec

I’ve always believed in the magic of Christmas. As a child, that magic, of course, entailed Santa Claus, some reindeer, and the fact that I never noticed Santa’s handwriting looked suspiciously like my father’s. While one might assume that “growing up” has lessened the magic that comes with the holiday season, I can’t help but feel that for me, the opposite is true. Christmas is more magical to me now than it ever has been.

Yes, I am that person. The one who listens to Christmas music non-stop the second the first snowflake falls. The one who doesn’t mind the appearance of Christmas lights at Target before Halloween is even over. I love every cookie, light, ugly sweater, piece of tinsel and bow that goes into Christmas. My enthusiasm is unbridled and neverending (obnoxiously so, if you’re the Ebenezer type). I know many people who think that Christmas has become a retail holiday. One without meaning beyond the presents under the tree. I could not disagree more.

At Christmas time, we try harder. We do more. We give more, and we think of ourselves less. We may grumble about the lines at the stores, the crowds at the malls, and the dents in our wallets, but we do so while hunting down the perfect gifts for those we love. We volunteer to ring bells. We donate to various food and toy drives. We play, and we laugh with all the wild abandon of a child. At this time of year, there is beauty in snowflakes and memories in songs. We create priceless and irreplaceable moments with those we love. The world is filled with lights, glitter, and the pure joy that comes with believing in the impossible.

Recent events that have unfolded on the news, as well as in my own life, are painful reminders that life is short, and precious. We do what we can to be safe, stay healthy, and cherish what is ours, but when it comes down to it: you just never know. There are far too many of us out there who know that in the blink of an eye, worlds can be shattered. Christmas reminds us to give thanks and celebrate every second we have with those we love.

My son was old enough this year to understand the stories and the meaning behind the rituals. We hung stockings, baked cookies and listened for the tapping of hooves on the roof together, and last night when he told me that he heard those reindeer, I swear I could hear it too. We are never too old to believe in something bigger than ourselves. It is never too late to right a wrong, mend that which has been broken, and dare yourself to try.

My son believes in the magic of Christmas, and I hope he always will.

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Christmas time 
And the moments just beginning 
From last night 
When we’d wished upon a star

If our kindness 
This day is just pretending 
If we pretend long enough 
Never giving up 
It just might be who we are

       – – “Promises to Keep” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra