Up to his room I went and into the dresser to find something comfy enough for the night, but not so heavy that he’d be overheated. We’ve had some really fluctuating temperatures the past several weeks.
That’s when I suddenly stopped and took notice at the sight beside me. In the mirror on the wall next to his dresser, there was someone looking back at me. The light was a little dimmer than normal, as I had only turned on the small table lamp in his room, but along with that half-lit face, was tints of gray in the (i’m sad to admit) receding hair that sat atop his head. The light accentuated the bags and wear under the eyes and he looked…older.
I stood there for quite a few minutes. Not out of vanity, but out of reflection, and a hint of sadness.
How could this be? Was I not just bouncing around the halls of high school? Wait. No. That was 16-19 years ago. Surely, it was just a little while ago that I was pulling all-nighters to film low-budget movies while studying screenwriting in college, right? Wow. No, that was over ten years ago already. And that plucky young journalist transitioning from a newspaper to broadcasting, that wasn’t that far away, right? It was. It was eight years ago. The guy who leaned over the seats of the theatre and asked Meg out on our first date during a play rehearsal? More than five years ago.
I gazed onward at this figure in the mirror before me, wondering where he came from, what caused him to be. When did it all happen, I wondered, and why is it only in this moment that I’m noticing? I stand before the bathroom sink everyday without a flinch. But somehow, in this moment, in this room and in this light, it was like staring into time and having another version of yourself staring back.
A reminder, I suppose, that no matter how much your life may change, still do everything to make it the time of your life, because it will go by in a blink if you let it.
I’ve mentioned previously here and there that I work in a newsroom by day. That can have some pretty high-energy days, but can certainly have some depressing ones based on the content.
This is what awaited me at my day job Wednesday.
As I had to read the words of this story during a newscast, I was feeling physically ill inside from the entire situation and the questions, possibilities and theories that go along with it.
This may look a little familiar if you’ve seen cable or network news in the past few days, as the story has now gone national. It started here, though, right in my own hometown.
The day this happened, I came into work late. I had been volunteering at a fundraiser breakfast for a local historical society with my wife and little boy in attendance. As we left, I got a text message from my boss: “police press conference. Missing baby.”
My heart sank as I looked in the backseat and saw my little guy, only two months older than this child. When I eventually got to work and started the newscast, I was dumbfounded.
The mother was gone before the child disappeared. The father hadn’t reported the kid missing for two weeks. Two weeks?! And he did so only after a confrontation about the child’s whereabouts from grandparents who were getting suspicious?!
I follow our little guy around the living room afraid he might bump his head, and someone left a baby out on a porch by themselves at nine months old? Things don’t add up, the police have admitted it doesn’t add up, and the saga and search continues as the national media begin to turn their spotlight on our area.
If something DID happen to this child, as is often being implied or theorized, I can’t help but wonder why things are so unfair. We have friends who are going through hoops and hoops in an effort to adopt. They have all the love in the world to give and are going through everything to be deemed acceptable for it to happen. Yet, there are parents giving birth to children who they won’t give an ounce of care or attention to. I just don’t understand it.
Not that my wife and I ever feel like we take our son for granted, but it generated a lot of conversation between the two of us about just how lucky we are.
He may have bad days (don’t we all?) and he may be a bit challenging, but even on his worst days, we are still do incredibly blessed that he is here and he is safe and he is with us.
Hug your little ones extra tight tonight, please. I know I did.
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.