This summer, we were visiting friends in Massachusetts (for a baby shower of their own little guy) and were just a stone’s throw away from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. With some careful planning (and some early departure time from home) we made it with plenty of time to spare and before the baby shower, got a chance to check out not only the amazing art of Eric Carle, but the museum’s limited exhibit of the art of Mo Willems.
Aside from the stunning visuals of these great authors and illustrators, the museum kept the fun factor going with scavenger hunts. In the case of Eric Carle, you’re given a list of items (a gorilla, perhaps, or an umbrella) that you check off along the way as you take in all the beautiful work around you. For the Mo Willems exhibit, it was a hunt for different color variations of The Pigeon, peeking out and around from art on the walls.
What also struck me was just how truly wonderful it is that this is recognized for the fine art it is. There’s that age old question, ‘but is it art?’ Yes. Yes, it is.
Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed inside of the actual exhibition halls, but we did get the chance to take some nice photos in the main hallway and of course, with our buddy, The Pigeon.
It was really phenomenal to see the evolution of pages from sketches to line drawings, to full-color pages as that we’re used to for characters like Elephant, Piggie and Pigeon, and even at just one year old, our little guy immediately recognized his favorite characters and was pointing and making noises to bring out attention to ones he liked.
Children’s Book Art is fascinating. A good story draws us in, but lets face it, whether we are a child or an adult, it is the art that grabs our attention in the first place to make us want to peer open that cover and see what adventure awaits us inside.
To see this recognized as an art form with its own museum created a truly happy feeling inside me, as if this was some type of tangible proof that there are many folks out there who feel the same way, and felt children’s books and their art deserved respect and regard.
It was a wonderful time, and we of course, left the museum gift shop with a new addition to our Elephant and Piggie Collection – “I Am Invited to a Party!”
The large white flakes fell outside the dining room windows a day before the official start of Spring, leaving the backyard, the neighborhood, and many across the northeast blanketed in a fresh coat of snow.
Bob Dylan’s gravely voice sang that “Times, They are a Changin’,” as my son sat, propping himself up on all fours atop a white quilted blanket made by one of his grandmothers.
Before Dylan was Paul Simon with “Kathy’s Song,” both making me lose myself in the sight of this little man now getting prepped for bath time.
Times, they are a changin’ indeed, and I don’t quite know why I can’t shake it. My entire life, I’ve thought so much about the passage of time, not necessarily living in the moment nearly as much as I think I should have.
When I was a very little kid, I took a field trip to a museum. There, even at an elementary age, I was fascinated by a series of paintings by Thomas Cole called “The Voyage of Life,” displaying the various stages we each go through, up against the backdrop of an ever darkening sky as our life continues. I’m not saying that’s what it did it, but it was certainly a series of images that have stayed with me to this day.
How did my parents do it? How do they handle even now, having children who are once these little cherub-faced angels, only to have them grow up to become people?
As bath time progresses and Dylan switches over to Billy Joel bellowing out the lament of a Piano Man, the snow continues to blanket the yard, like it has years before and will for years to come.
I don’t know where any of us will be as I look out to that fallen snow and think of the years that will follow, but I know I’ll look back and feel that they went by too fast.
Will I see my reflection in the glass against the sheet of white and see a life lived or a life spent philosophizing on how quickly it all changes?
Maybe a little of both. Who knows?
I hope it’s a life that found a balance between the two, savoring the moments to their fullest because of an awareness that they won’t last forever. I truly hope so.
Only time will tell.
With a five month old now added to the mix, I admit that our movie viewing habits have drastically reduced, or have become divided into segments. After all, any time we get where he is napping is usually spent taking care of more pressing matters around the house rather than watching the boob tube.
Somehow, whether it was his being infatuated with his mother’s face, or the ceiling fan up above, my little monkey was pretty calm while the wife and I took in all the Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed goodness.
You don’t need me to say that it still holds up to this day – the story of the average joe who’s sacrificed so much of his dreams to help out those around him, only to fall knee deep into it himself and hit rock bottom and wish he were never born.
When I watched it this year, though, something was slightly different. Perhaps it was the frustration George Bailey felt at home with the “drafty old house” or the constant noise of the kids after an absolute day from hell. Suddenly, I was not only enjoying this film as I have for years, I was suddenly relating to it.
We all have the things we wanted to do with out lives, and in George’s case, it was seeing the world and living a life of adventure. He gave it up, though, time and again – when his father passed and he had to take over the Building and Loan, when he fell in love with Mary and they bought that old, run-down Victorian house and decided to fix it up, when he realized that the ever flirtatious Violet was not interested in his wacky dreams, or when he stayed at the Building and Loan so that his brother, Harry, could have the life and dreams HE wanted.
In the end, of course, that’s what brings all those friends and acquaintances rallying around George when he needs it, but it took some getting there for George to realize how good he had it when the chips were down.
Earlier this month, I came across this great introspective article over at “The Art of Manliness,” a phenomenal website definitely worth subscribing to. From teaching/reminding useful skills that often get lost in our fast-paced, technological society, to an appreciation for the things of the past, this website is really something.
Anyway, the article can be found right here: http://artofmanliness.com/2012/12/03/the-george-bailey-technique/
What it does is propose the exercise of doing a “George Bailey” on your own life. Sit down, and write out what your life would be like without a particular person, place or event in your life that brings you happiness.
It may seem like a simple thing to do, but once you start delving in to the paths that might not have crossed, you can hit upon some dark places in your mind, my friend. At times, it can be downright scary.
I think of just some of the seemingly random events that have led me to where I am today.
- “What if I never took that phone call asking if I was interested in a job at my current workplace?”
- “What if I never took that job?”
- “What if I never went out for drinks that time and made some new friends?”
- “What if I hadn’t, through those friends, found out about a play at a local theatre needing an extra actor or two and been coerced into trying out?”
- “What if I hadn’t been at this new job that had the flexibility to be in a play?”
- “What if I hadn’t agreed to go back months later and tryout again?”
You get my point. I could go on forever, and that’s just for one particular event in my life – meeting my wife. If those particular sequences of events had not taken place, I would never have met the woman I’m married to today. We would never have become friends, later begun dating, and eventually gotten married. The three cherished cats that have become like our first children, would never have been rescued, and been left to fates I don’t even dare think about without getting upset. And we would have, of course, never had our newborn son, the little man whose mere smirk or smile is enough to make me want to race home each and every day to see.
What I’m saying is that, while watching George Bailey torture himself to discover why he’s important, I realized that we all have those kind of days. Those days when it seems like we’re taking the falls for the absent-minded Uncle Billies in our lives, when our finances seem in trouble or drained, when the kids just won’t give you a moment to yourself, and when the Mr. Potters of the world just won’t let up and give us a break, trying to crush our spirits.
There’s countless times where I’ve been frustrated with work, or a co-worker, or a lack of space or function in our old house, or a surprise bill in the mail. “If we only had more money, if we only had different careers, if we only had a bigger, better home…”
It’s so easy to think about the obstacles we come across, what we don’t have, or to think the grass would be greener someplace or someway else. However, when we realize what we have an how such chance moments in life led us to it, how easily that could have all slipped by if we had made a different decision, it really puts things in perspective.
It’s easy to let the world crash down around us when this happens, to wonder “what if.” But instead of wanting to throw ourselves off our personal Bedford Falls bridge, maybe we need to listen to that little Clarence Oddbody (AS2 – ‘Angel, Second Class’) in the back of our minds and remember what it is that we have around us in our lives.
If we did that more often, we might all see that life isn’t so bad and those obstacles don’t outweigh what we have, who we have, and what lives we have touched.
We might just see that it really is a Wonderful Life.
I live by lists, I admit it.
Every day, my planner is filled with a myriad of “to-dos” that I set out to try and accomplish, be they personal, work, phone calls, writing projects, blog posts, catching up on e-mail replies, or just things around the house. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment to be had when you cross something off your list and know that it’s done and complete and you don’t have to worry about it again, unless it’s a recurring task.
It’s a habit I got into back in high school, around 10th or 11th grade. An assignment from one of our teachers was to go out and buy a planner. The type didn’t matter, as long as it worked for you. Then, for the rest of the year (and the following year if you had that teacher, Mr. Hanley, again), you were to keep track of all your appointments, schedules, assignments and more. The purpose was to help us become better organized individuals before college. I can’t speak for anyone else in the class, but it definitely ended up working for me, and quickly became a habit that I carried over into college and then onward to the rest of my life.
In fact, at this point each year, I find myself doing the annual purchase of a new planner for the upcoming year. You don’t need anything expensive. While I’ve seen planners that are in the double digits, I frequently find mine at any $1 store. Another year, another 365 days of lists, of projects, of things to do.
Suddenly, though, I find things are changing a bit.
Sure, I’m still writing out my lists the night before of what I want to get done the following day or in the days ahead. Yes, I’m still typically piling as much into those lists as possible, as I always seem to have way too many things on the burner to handle at once. What has changed, though, is how much gets crossed off them.
What, in years past, would equate to me burning the midnight oil and running myself ragged to accomplish every single thing on the list, has dwindled. The lists are the same, but usually I average only a few things, some days only one, on those lists. A lot has happened in those times between then and now. I’ve graduated college, I’ve been in the same career field for more than five years, I’ve gotten married, and we’ve had our son. All life changing experiences that come with their own built-in responsibilities.
So it shouldn’t have come as so much of a surprise to me when the “crossed off” items on my lists were becoming so few each day. Initially, it would make me annoyed, some times a little depressed. “How is it I used to accomplish so much and now feel that I accomplish so little?!” I would think to myself. I would even try to cram as much as possible into the weekends because so much time, between work and home life was eaten up during the weekdays and weeknights.
I used to think when a weekend concluded and I hadn’t crossed everything off my to-do list that time had been wasted. Now, though, I realize it’s just more time spent with my wife and son, and that’s never a waste of time.
You only live once. Don’t get caught up in the to-dos of a list that won’t stand the test of time when you can be investing in the greatest commodity you have, your loved ones.
About a month to go.
Seriously? As I type that first sentence, I just can’t help but ask myself, has 34 weeks really gone by that quickly? Why has it taken me this long to finally sit down and put my thoughts to page? My wife and mother in law suggested writing about the process of fatherhood to be months ago, yet, here I am at 34 weeks before I even typed out a single word. If this is how far behind I am on writing about it, how far behind am I going to be when the kid actually gets here?
These are the thoughts that went swimming through my brain the minute I started thinking about this tonight. It’s just how my mind works. Always a handful of questions, always doubting what I didn’t accomplish or why I didn’t do it sooner. It makes me worried for what kind of a father I’m going to be.
I sit up a lot at night and get lost in my thoughts. I wonder what are child will be like. Will it be a boy or a girl? Will they take after Meg or myself? Will they want to read comic books or go to a baseball game? Then it’s not long before my mind goes to a darker line of questioning that’s just downright frightening. Will they a good person? Will they be kind to others? To animals? What kind of friends will they have? How will they be influenced? Will we live in this small house forever? Where else could we possibly live? What kind of role models we be for the child? Will they even care?
You see what I mean. I thought getting cats made me a worrier. The prospect of another human being that is going to grow into a adult one day, a living breathing member of society, is just plain frightening, and loaded with questions that I don’t have answers to.
And now there’s only four weeks to go and I feel woefully unprepared for this.
Sure, we’ve been taking classes to understand the birthing process. We’ve been, little by little, getting things done around the house – putting shelves up in the nursery closet, assembling the crib, painting a dresser and putting it in the nursery. Tiny steps towards the little one’s arrival.
But yet, I keep having this nagging feeling that I’m supposed to be doing more. It haunts me, this feeling that, if I don’t have x y and z done in plenty of time for this baby’s first step into the house that I’m starting them, and us as a family off on the wrong foot.
It’s because of that feeling that I feel I wasted the first 8 months of this pregnancy. I was so busy crossing things off of lists and running around to make sure “things were done” that I never stopped to take in and appreciate what is going on – the life that is being created and the family that is being created. Now, there’s only one month to go before that child is here and our lives are never again the same. And yet, it’s taken me all this time to stop and realize it, leaving me with four weeks to cherish it while it is here.
You only get one first. Don’t waste it. Take the time to stop, slow down, and appreciate it.