Thursday, June 25, 2015

Teenagers who DON'T only think of themselves.

The other day, four deep in traffic at a light, I saw something worth mentioning. 

A small woman, white-haired and elderly, was, with all her might, pushing what looked like a hand-cart stacked with blankets and other items across the six-lane intersection. She trudged, head down as though she were pushing a car. As she got closer, I saw what was making this journey so hard. It was not a full cart she pushed but a woman the size of two people in a wheelchair. But for her head, the large woman was buried beneath clothing and shopping bags.

They labored until they reached the right turn only lane on the other side. There they  stopped, stymied by the rise of the four inch curb. While those blinkers flashed to her right, the small woman circled the chair nervously, eyes darting to the traffic and back while the woman in the chair tried without success to lift and propel herself, chair and all, up and over the curb.

With one more push, the small woman gave up. She looked around in defeat and I willed the driver at the head of the line - the only one with safe proximity to her - to not be an asshat and help her out before the light turned. He didn't. 

From the other direction appeared two teenagers on bikes, pedaling furiously toward this scene. The bigger one of the two dropped his bike and sprinted, reaching the woman seconds before the light turned. When the other boy caught up, they lifted and shoved the chair onto the sidewalk, then continued moving it up the hill without a break in stride until the incline leveled off, a good hundred feet away. Then, they jogged back down the hill to where they'd dropped their bikes.  
It's the season of teenagers, they're everywhere. Quiet ones, sulky ones, bored and over-achieving and giggly ones. Teenagers who have graduated, who are preparing to leave home, who will become freshmen somewhere. We will see teenagers in their summer jobs, teenagers hanging around doing nothing. We will see them roll their eyes and hear them mumble.

Not me. When I think of teenagers – any teenager – I can't pay attention to what shows.  I've seen too many whose spirit has been tested, and whose generosity and kindness are too distracting to notice how they text when they should be paying attention, or won't help around the house, or just won't think of anyone but themselves. 
I wasn't surprised by what I saw at the intersection that day. Not at all.

But I do wish upon that asshat, several waits at many lights that he just can't seem to hit at the right time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Party of four

Catering Crew
Last weekend our adult children left their far-flung regions to unite and throw us a little party in honor of a recent milestone anniversary.
They text-managed a schedule of tasks, shopped for and prepared the food, and organized themselves into a catering quartet that seemed to mirror their birth order. (Son to daughter wearing apron:  "What can I do?" Daughter to son:  "Make me some coffee.")  
They had to tell us what was happening (it was our house) but it came with a stern warning not to "help." 
We didn't, and it was a total success from "Where do you keep the parchment paper?" to, "Should I save the salad?"
We never expected payback for the 102 (give or take) birthdays we've staged since they were babies, but we got it. We had not been expecting to be joyful and awed this weekend but we were. 
It reminded me of something I learned recently at the salon, where I attend life school.
I sat a few chairs away from a woman who was my age or older,  for whom the only word was "joyful." Elegant and engaging and animated, she told a long, funny story while the stylist worked and commented and laughed with her.  She wasn't seizing or seeking attention. She held attention because she was just fun to listen to. 
I saw another woman across from me, about the same age.  She was dressed in jeans and flip flops with long wiry gray hair, and a face creased with what looked like too much very deep thinking. She talked quietly with her stylist about some event in her life, and though I couldn't hear the words (and I tried, readers) the tone was unmistakably disgruntled.  Not sad or angry. Disgruntled. 
I thought, what is it that makes us ride life like we do? 
Some consider it the other way around - why does life ride us? - and only try not to stagger under its weight.  
Others appear to argue with it, ever annoyed, ever anticipating the problems life hasn't, but might present. 
Some walk companionably with it, tolerating its flaws and accepting its gifts. 
I want to be that first woman  – joyful, divested of enough hard things to draw a hand across my brow in a "whew" kind of way. Then I want to embrace the easier, surprising parts that arrive like bouquets of gratitude - thank yous from life for enduring and loving and celebrating it, for waiting and hurting through its moody turns, but always believing that every minute is worth the love you give it.
Life reminds me of children.
And bouquets of gratitude that look like surprise parties.