My parents are a master class in anthropology. When I feel inclined to dig a littler deeper into the interpersonal relationship of a rare species of the betrothed, I just tag along with them for the day. They have been married for nearly 40 years. A classic tale of crazy young love, except contrary to today’s norm, they’ve stuck it out. Duked it out, actually. That being said, they love each other in that imperfect, knit-picky, and chronically annoying sort of way. For me, the eldest/mediator/buffer for my siblings, I’ve unique insight into their oddities. Today, I joined them for our community’s annual art festival on beautiful Lake Morton for a continuation of study.
Let’s take for example my dad: the social butterfly, an unapologetic extrovert, who happens to be the third-born of 5 children, and in my opinion, semi-starved for affirmation and praise. He is very smart, “very tenacious” (as he reminded me in a conversation today), knows no strangers and loves guitars. All of these things led us to a very lengthy wait in each of the booths that offered any form of rock icon art. My mother, who would rather be at home hunkered down in her sewing room or tweeting about all things politics, was visibly flustered by his aimless wandering. “It takes him so long to make a decision”, she says, as we peered at him from outside the booth. He continued his shuffle through boxes of prints. “He won’t even buy anything, she says.” Nearly a half-hour later, he resurfaced with a bag of treasure. She rolled her eyes.
And then, the strangest thing happened. We happened upon a display that showcased a variety of exquisite copper metal pieces. Some of them being wall art, but others designed for a garden. I noticed my parents’ intrigue as they admired the art. For a moment, they seemed to have connected with a fond memory of the past. I noticed a spark of enthusiasm as they discussed it.
“Remember, Steve? We used to have this kind of art on the walls in the old house on Forestbrook!”
“Oh yea. The ships. Aimee, we had this huge ship sculpture of metal. Pretty cool. Looked just like this stuff. I should have kept those. They were nice.”
I remember mentioning somewhere in all of it that the garden stakes would be sweet in his flower beds. Then, mom and I walked off. He stood for several minutes, analyzing every single humming-bird stake on display. Studying them, looking at every detail. I could see Mom was frustrated, again. “He always does this. We don’t need that!”
After what seemed like hours, Dad comes walking up with copper hummingbird garden stake and hands it to my mother. It’s tied with a red ribbon.
“Happy Mother’s Day”, he says as he gives her the bird and walks away.
Mom stood there. Dumbfounded and staring at it. “See? He buys me something he wants and justifies it by saying Happy Mother’s Day.”
I did see it, and for a moment felt awkward and a bit confused. But my assessment of the scenario was altered abruptly by a fleeting thought….“He’s simply remembering a happier time and longing to connect with it.”
Isn’t that what we all do sometimes? Remember when times were better….when we were younger….when we were happy? Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Though years go by and circumstances bear pressure on relationships, we still search relentlessly to connect with the heart of our happiness, wherever it is hiding. Yes, we say things we don’t mean. Yes, we can make assumptions or misinterpret motives. We get into the habit of thinking the worst. I believe this is true of my folks. At the end of the day perhaps Dad just wanted to revisit the copper metal ships that he he hung on the wall wife of his youth. Maybe today, the humming-bird was the portal by which he knew how to get there.
Make sure you love big today.