My mother doesn’t like gold stars, in fact she doesn’t like attention of any kind and feels about applause the way a cat feels about the bath. In her own quiet steady way my mother has made her life about finding the beauty and the magic in places where other people can’t see it or don’t think it exists. She does this in small ways, like choosing the Charlie Brown christmas tree every year despite the fact that there are many gorgeous, full ones available. And in large ways by spending her career as an advocate for the rights of women and children all around the world.
My parents have sold their house. It has a plaque on it that says “John Knapp House 1760” in case you thought your eyes were deceiving you about whether or not it was old. The people who have bought it will perhaps tear it down. We knew that and recently signed the demolition papers that accompany the sale. The land is worth more than the house to anyone but us, and for the most part we have made peace with that strange reality. So, recently when I walked by my mother’s house and saw that she was planting pansies I couldn’t help myself. I laughed and said, “Are you gardening for the bulldozers?” In my family we have a long history of taking uncomfortable truths and whacking each other with them until they stop feeling weird. She looked at me, smiled and said “No, it’s still my house and I would like to look outside and see pansies.”
She is right of course. She won’t move until August, which is several months of looking outside your window at no pansies. Do I think it is a little bit like the band playing as the Titanic sank? Absolutely. If she didn’t plant them no one would notice except her. We are all too busy going a million different directions. She didn’t plant them for us, or for the bulldozers, she planted them because she loves them. My mother has built her life around the belief that no matter how grim a situation there is always the opportunity for the human spirit to triumph. Whether it was giving voice to those most downtrodden on the other side of the world, or believing in the power of spring flowers to uplift us all.
She has quietly taught me and everyone who knows her that there is the possibility for magic in all things. That life’s most beautiful and poignant moments come in the places where we least expect them. We can choose to see the joy and possibility in our everyday, not because we want gold stars, but because it makes for a better view.