Sunday, July 8, 2007

Small Moments of Bliss

Summer vacations!

They are another truly wonderful thing about being a teacher but one that I did not experience in the first nine years I taught. However, all work and no play made Gary a dull and cranky boy so last year I decided that I simply had to 'get selfish' and took some time to regroup. I walked away from teaching summer school and spent the summer riding my bike, reading, napping, working out and enjoying my family and friends. No regrets surrounded that decision. In fact, I plan to do the same this summer.

On Friday night I drove out to the land of my childhood, Long Island, to see my four-year-old niece in her first dance recital. Every time I visit I am reminded of how fast time flies and think back to the person I was, wide eyed and full of dreams. I find it hard to fathom that more than 20 years have passed since I called it home. I like the skinny, curly haired, innocent boy I was back then but it seems SO long ago. I am no longer any of those things.

As I drive I make mental plans to see my old friends; as if they are all still there waiting for my call. I think about the things I used to do...

Sitting on the hood of my brothers 1968 Pontiac Firebird under the streetlight at two o'clock in the morning writing poetry on my unicorn stationary...

Walking barefoot through the quiet neighborhood streets singing a lyric from I Ain't Always Been Faithful from Linda Ronstadt's self titled album that goes "Have you ever walked the empty streets until the break of dawn, just to hear some lonesome sparrow sing a lonesome song"...

Reading Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire while the house slept...

Laughing over Benny Hill with my brothers and eating Bachmans Butter Twist pretzels.

While I drove it hit me that these were small moments of bliss. Moments that perfectly captured my essence, my happiness and my connections to the fundamental elements that inspire me.

Time stands still and passes quickly when one is lost in reminisces. Next thing I knew it was 2:00 AM and I had arrived. My (amazing and beautiful) sister J.J. and her (equally amazing) husband Mike bought the house I grew up in from my parents and now live there with their three children; aged 16, 8 and 4. The kids were sleeping but J.J. and Mike were still sorta awake. We said hello and chatted a bit before heading off to slumber.
Somewhere in the night my niece woke up and I went to tend to her. Actually, she seemed to be wandering and I swept her up in my arms where she promptly fell asleep. She was a bit hot and sweaty, getting heavier as her body went progressively limp and I thought "what do I do with her now?". I ended up putting her down where I was sleeping because I couldn't see through the darkness of her room. When she was settled I tried to sleep again but little kids move around quite a bit and one never knows when a sharp movement can result in a slap to the face. However the morning found its way to us and I awoke to the smells of Belgian waffles wafting up from the kitchen.

A leisurely breakfast was followed by 'getting ready' which can be a messy, chaotic process when children are involved. My niece smiled and posed for me in her stunning costume. She and five other little girls were dancing to "Build me up Buttercup" by The Foundations.


After the show I spent the rest of the day playing with her and gaining insight into the world from her perspective. As I threw a baseball towards her to swing at with a mini 'hitter thing' (bat) on the front lawn, memories came flooding back to when I used to lie on the same grass and look up at the clouds to see the pictures they created. I shared these thoughts with her and she was instantly on her back gazing up at the clouds.

I was not sure if she was going to get this little activity but the minute she looked up she rattled off an impressive array of objects; a train, a dragon, a man, a sword, a castle, a face. As I was trying to locate the face my sister came out and joined us, then her husband. So the four of us were taking a moment to look at clouds. And it hit me...another small moment of bliss in the making.

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime,
Where the travellers journey is done.

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my sun-flower wishes to go.

William Blake - Songs of Experience


marxsny said...

It's a little Van Gogh and a little Edgar Degas mixed together with the innocence of youth. Impressionist but at the same time filled with hope. Our children are our future.

la bellina mammina said...

Your niece is gorgeous! Have a great summer hols! There's nothing selfish baout it!

florecita said...

It's so good to take time off, just to live and receive all the blessings from the Universe...

My niece is now 16, and she gave one of the greatest lessons of life: When I was dancing in the company, not going to classes or reherseal were just like the worst thing to do... but when she was 5, it was her graduation from preeschool, and I skip the dance that day... thank God! My bliss was that every kid told the teacher the most important thing for them, and guess what? She was grateful because I always took her to the beach and the pool... I was in the right place to hear that, and love tears washed my heart and soul... I've learned that people need us... and that time spent with our love ones is the best thing to do in life...

Have a great summer, Gary!

Junk Thief said...

Sounds like a great vacation, and I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it. However, I would worry about you getting in trouble with your brother for sitting on the hood of his muscle car. That might be asking for trouble.

d. chedwick bryant said...

since you plan to relax this summer.... what do you think of this concert? Sunday Aug 19 @7pm.

Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops salute music from the glitz and glamour of the Academy Award's Oscar and the American Theatre Wing's Tony. This "Tribute to Oscar and Tony" is the ultimate setting for film and theater enthusiasts to hear the most memorable award-winning themes from the golden age of cinema to the latest Hollywood blockbuster, and from the classics of the Great White Way to the most recent Broadway hit musical.

@ The Bethel Woods Center...

Joy said...

I love her yellow dress, with the sunflowers: perfect. Build Me Up, Buttercup is one of my all-time favorites!

But I don't see anything about Pink Champale in those reminiscences. ;)

Gary said...

Joy it is so funny that you mention that because after I wrote this I thought PINK CHAMPALE! How could I have overlooked the necter of the gods? I still smile at our glee when we discovered a bottle hidden away when we thought we had finished them all. That was the cast party for The Amorous Flea right? It ended with a dip in the ocean as the sun came up. Good times.

Ched that sounds like a wonderful show but I think I will be in Florida then visiting my parents.

Junk Thief I can do that one better. I got into an accident while driving that car and totaled it. To my brother's credit his only concern was for my safety. He never once mentioned it again and never yelled at me. He is a super big brother.

Florecita how wonderful that you have it all in perspective. Also how wonderful that you take the time to enjoy it.

La bellina - thanks. She is also a little spitfire with an amazing will. Tough little girl, but with an older brother and sister I suppose she has learned to hold her own. I adore her.

Mark I didn't realize this until you pointed it out. Good call. I don't know what I would do without my cell phone to take pictures. Good ol' Verizon.

Lynda said...

Hi Gary,

Just saw that you updated your Blog. Once again I loved "Small Moments of Bliss."
Your niece looks very cute-as you said adorable. Really liked the poem on Sunflowers,
as you know they remind me of my trip to Italy last summer.
I did not know your Sister, Husband and family bought your parents home. You can always go
back when you visit and remember all the happy childhood memories. As you know, I loved my
childhood as well, it was great fun in the summer swimming with my friends, playing baseball
& kickball in front of our house, going to movies,shopping -happy memories.

I'm sure you are busy teaching your adult class, and are counting down the days to your vacation.

Take Care. Hope you are well and staying cool!


Reya Mellicker said...

The pics are spectacular! Love the sky, but even better is the back of your niece's dress.

I love the man you have now become. You know that little boy is still part of you, even though time has passed. God do I know how time has passed.

Glad you'll be biking and hanging out this summer. Let's make a plan and get together, please?

Also - THANK YOU for featuring "What is God." It truly explains God. Who knew? Love to you and stay cool!

Tony said...


Anonymous said...

Gary, I just love to read about how you feel about always make me see things in a wonderful way.The kids all think you are the best and I agree with them 100%. you will always be my sunshine on my sholder. love ya, J.J

MONA said...

what a wonderful post :) full of memories taht one holds close to the heart. You took me there withg you! It is great to recollect the treasures from the past!
your niece looks adorable indeed & that is my favourite color she is wearing!
good, your sister bought the house. It is still safely with the family. We lost ours & now there satnds a women's hostel on that land. It cuts like a knife to see it!


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