The little things really are the big things. We say it all the time but I think very few of us believe it because we certainly don’t act like it. We want every event to be like stills pulled from a movie where everyone is bathed in golden hour light and flower petals fall from the trees as we lay in the grass below. We start out any random Friday night and inside we are hoping just a little bit that it will the night of our lives, the one that we could never forget, and if it isn’t we are let down. I think this leads to a lot of disappointing moments in our lives where we are dissatisfied with ourselves, our family, our friends, and our lot in life.
I think there are a lot of things that contribute to this, things I admittedly indulge. Facebook and Instagram certainly don’t make it any easier. I can peek at the small luxuries of women who are both like me and totally not like me and feel like my life doesn’t measure up. I didn’t start this morning with a croissant on a charming antique plate with earl gray tea and imported French preserves all placed next to a novel with a beautiful cover and a bouquet of flowers. Truth be told, my morning started out with me in a rat’s nest bun and leggings as I slurped crappy coffee with almond milk from a chipped mug and a bowl of ramen in my lap and not even the really good kind. Like the desperate kind. More truth, not even that woman’s day actually started out like that because I am telling you right now that she totally composed that shot so we could see a carefully curated selection of her morning’s elements. What may or may not have been outside the frame of that iPhone shot, I will never know. All I can really be sure about is that nobody is sitting down to the breakfast and thinks, “Snap. This looks like an amazing shot. Lemme casually lay my novel down here and snap an IG.”
Life is real, like a lot of real. It is real hard. It is real messy. It is real loud. It is also real good. I think we need to not lose track of that. Life is legit good and probably because it is also hard and messy and loud. When we sit down to think about what our lives mean, too often we are looking for the big things that identify us and it’s unfortunate. If we take a few minutes to think about it, when we sit down and evaluate the lives of someone we loved who died, we don’t think about the big things. It all comes down to the tiny things, the smallest of things, the things that are really real.
Think about someone you lost but whom you loved deeply and profoundly. Do you list their job or college or the kind car they drove (unless it was something cool or quirky because that is something)? I am guessing that you are thinking about things like the way they smelled or the way they always mispronounced a word or maybe songs they sang. I know I do. My grandfather was a musician with long, beautiful fingers with deep nail beds and very, very round tips. My father and his siblings had these hands but I don’t and oddly, I really wish I did. It wouldn’t make my fingers work better or be more finger-like but I could look at them and think of him.
If you asked me at this moment, right now, to tell you something about my grandfather, I would tell you about making tortillas for him when I was a child. I used to make tortillas with grandmother and I would drop them onto her nasty, shedding green kitchen carpet and I would pick them up and keep rolling. After they were cooked, no one else would eat them but my grandfather. He would slather them with butter and ignore the dirt and lint and God only knows what else and eat them and he never failed to tell me that they were delicious. I will never forget that. I was probably five years old and making food that someone enjoyed and it literally changed my life, it set the course for me. It was a tiny little thing but it is also enormous and consuming. These moments are all we get, really. We just scoop up all these small moments and pile them together and they make up our lives and we can’t afford to let them roll away just because we are looking for the bigger thing somewhere else. These things are the big things because of their totality, where the whole is really far greater the sum of its parts.
As a mother I want my children to know this. I want them to look for the small things. The world will creep in with its antique plates and imported preserves and we need to push it back with rat nest buns and a little reality. We need to start with ourselves and looking at these little moments and seeing the beauty in them, even if it is hard to see at first. I don’t always feel like I am at my best. Honestly, I feel like I am just holding on for dear life, but that isn’t what my kids see. I am not sure what they do see but they are watching and they see something. When I die, God willing it is a long, long time from now, they will talk about the things that they remember. They will remember the little things and I can’t know from here what it will be, so I need to give them opportunities to find those little things.
One of the ways that we give them that time is to just be present and not fill every moment. Sometimes these things roll into the room when we move just past the point of boredom. It means not trying to constantly curate my life but let the kids see things that are me, like my rat nest bun. It means letting moments be small and beautiful and waiting to find out later what they were worth. When my grandfather ate those tortillas served on my play kitchen dishes, he had no idea what it would it mean. He was just there, in the moment, doing the little things. He could never have known it would be the most beautiful memory I have of him. There are a lot of ways that we can do this but the truth of the matter is that we won’t know what it all means for a long time.
Things of value are an investment, they take time and they need to develop, and they start small. The little things really are the big things. Just trust that.