When I was a kid, we lived on the east coast, where there were seasons. The seasons were so different from each other that they required specialized clothing – like a Winter Coat and Winter Boots, or a slew of Tank Tops and Shorts that had a very necessary, but limited lifespan. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have less distinct seasons, and I often find myself wearing my wool sweater and socks in July or a t-shirt in December.
Most of the time this is nice – I don’t have to have extra storage for the extra wardrobes. I can leave my thermostat around 66 all year and be perfectly content! I can dress the Pie in pretty much the same outfit, summer or winter, and just add a layer as necessary.
But there is one major downfall. I can’t surprise myself anymore.
When I was a kid in DC, as fall rolled in I pulled out my box of winter clothes from the back corner of the closet and started fishing around for my Winter Coat. It was warm and waterproof, windproof and lightning proof (ok maybe not that last part).
I put it on to make sure it still fit after summering in my closet. I zipped the front and stuffed my hands in my pockets. There was something in there. I pulled out and inspected a crumpled up $5 bill! OHMYGAWD. That was like the best day ever for my 7-year-old self. I found the money I had left in my pocket when spring started creeping up the year before. That accidental oversight – from excitement to wear a windbreaker instead of a bulky coat – created my favorite day, half a circle around the sun from when the oversight happened.
From that point until we moved back west, I tried hiding money or candy or stickers or something extra-cool in my pockets to surprise myself again. Sadly I remembered about all of them, so although I spent my nights trying to will myself to forget, the surprises never came to fruition. Once I acted out being surprised, so that maybe I could believe it. It didn’t work. Disappointment followed me through the remaining seasons in DC, until I came back to the Northwest where we don’t put clothes away, so there’s no reason to even try to create a surprise. Those all-season clothes may only find themselves shoved to the corner of the dresser drawer for a few weeks before needing to make their re-appearance.
I finally learned the lesson of the winter-coat-pocket-money. You just can’t surprise yourself.
Motherhood is like that, too.
There are amazing, surprising moments that I want to stretch out, to make last. I try to set the environment to create a repeat performance, but it just can’t happen that way. I can’t re-create surprise.
I have to accept that, and try to sit back and let the moments come to me. I try to enjoy the wet pants while we sit on the damp deck to get some “sunshine” in this dreary May. I try to find the joy in being pulled away from every task just as I’m getting started. I have to remind myself to enjoy the days of needing non-stop snuggles, or the days that she just can’t seem to nurse long enough. Remind, remind, remind. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
And then, suddenly, while I’m thinking about something else, I’ll look down at the little face in the dark bedroom, nursing to stay asleep and think: this is better than a surprise, this is a beautiful small moment. And even though it repeats itself daily, once it’s gone I’ll think it’s too soon and I’ll wish for that moment - that feeling back. It’s not the thrill of surprise that’s so intoxicating, but the sweet calm of contentment.
Maybe you can surprise yourself.