Saturday, July 2, 2011

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

You know the stuff I'm talking about--the teenagers in the movie sitting on the hood of a car looking out over the city and talking about things that seem immortal in that moment; the kids jumping fearlessly off an old rope into the lake on a seemingly endless summer day; the moment when a man's hand touches a woman's at the edge of the water at sunset; the family singing together in the car.

It happens.

Maybe your best friend cuts a foot off your hair in a dormitory bathroom one night, both of you giggling at your own daring; maybe you stand with an old friend at ocean's edge at sunset, your child by your side and hers in her arms, and watch an unexpected school of dolphins play in the surf; maybe a man spontaneously picks a flower for you walking by the river at dusk; maybe you and your closest friends drink wine coolers out of two-liter bottles by the lagoon late one night and end up singing old songs together on a tiny island; maybe a little girl carefully makes you a picnic lunch of bologna sandwiches and juice boxes to eat on the lawn with her on Mother's Day; maybe your conversation on a road trip with a friend keeps you laughing so hard that you almost don't want to reach your destination. Maybe you stand on a bridge at midnight and watch fireworks with all of the people you love most in the world; maybe a man plays a song just for you in a room full of strangers who will never know what it meant; maybe a tiny child looks up at you with shining eyes and says "this is fun!" and transforms everything about that moment; maybe wine tasting on a winter morning makes you reckless enough to say something you really, really should; maybe you dance in a downpour with your children; maybe you hang your purse in a tree one evening and roll down a hill with your oldest friend, forgetting for a moment that you're both in your forties and laughing like children; maybe a child who isn't yours gives you a heartfelt Mother's Day card; maybe any of a hundred thousand other moments you could recall happened when you least expected them, when you were walking down the street with a friend or awakened by a child or surprised by a lover or caught a glimpse of something magnificent.

Here's what almost never happens, though: you plan to have a magical movie moment and it turns into something memorable. The reason is both obvious and ironic. What makes those moments magical and memorable is their authenticity, the moment of connection, the spontaneous laughter, the way you feel when a certain person's hand covers yours. And you can't plan those things. You can plan the trappings, but the trappings don't really mean anything. Sunset doesn't make for romance; the sun sets every evening and most of the time most of us don't even notice it. It's the right company, the loosening of your sense of time when you're sitting with that person at dusk that lets you see the sunset differently, that makes it something memorable. And there's nothing inherently beautiful about a bologna sandwich. It's the tiny hands that worked so hard at making it just right for you and the tiny heart that motivated it that fix that lunch in your mind for the rest of your life.

How very sad that so often we get so caught up in staging the perfect moment that we're too busy to let one happen.

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