Today the wind is blowing and the air finally has a chill in it. It has been warm and sunny for a few weeks now, which has been a new and delightful experience for me. I have never spent the winter somewhere warm. Every few days Mo tells me how much better he feels freed from the bulky layers and snow shoveling. We lived in the Bronx the winter before we left for Israel and it was a season of epic snow falls. Over and over drifts of snow completely covered our beat up car in its metered parking spot. Over and over Mo shoveled it out, only to drive to work and give up the nice clean spot to a stranger. The mantra became, “This is good, we’re paying it forward, RIGHT!?” The following year we spent the rainy Israeli winter in a drafty, unheated, moldy apartment. There was a lot of coughing. It was depressing in many ways. Alas, finding ourselves in the midst of a tropical winter where I am sweating not from shoveling heavy wet snow but from strolling with my baby in the sun, is a blessing. Even though I have been enjoying the warm breezes, today’s imitation of a Northeastern blustery fall day has me feeling nostalgic and warm on the inside. Windy autumn days send me to the feeling of a new school year beginning, a birthday coming, orange leaves dappled with that special kind sunlight that only comes in the fall. It seems to come from an off angle, even at noon. Here in Miami the sunlight falls down like a flood, sometimes it is interrupted by a blanket of clouds, but it always comes back to fill every corner. Israeli sun seems to come from above and choose the spots where it wants to land.
Enough poetic musings on sunlight, what I’m trying to say is that I’m feeling happy and noticing some extra sweet moments that I want to share with you.
Babies grow so fast that when we see them every day, it can be hard to pinpoint the changes that occur rapidly throughout the first year. What day did Ella learn to crawl? I’m not sure, first she squirmed backward for a few weeks, then she went onto her hands and knees and rocked back and forth, then one day she lurched forward with Frankenstein arms, then the next day she did that again, then after a few days she moved both arms, now she crawls with her arms and legs in coordinated movement. When did she learn to crawl? You tell me. One big change that I noticed rather suddenly is her awareness of people and things coming and going. If you know about child development maybe you can tell me what this is called. Object permanence? Is this the time when she realizes the baby in the mirror is her? Today she saw herself in the mirror and immediately head butted herself, then spent a minute delicately sliding her fingers along with her mirror fingers in tiny butterfly movements. I felt like I was turning inside out watching her. It was so sweet and full of discovery! Yesterday she started crying when Ben moved his feet away from her grabbing hands. She wants to hear the velcro sound when she pulls the straps on his shoes open, he is not a fan of her new fascination. When Mo and Ben left for school this morning Ella crawled toward the door, crying for them. When they came back to say one more goodbye she lifted her teary little face and gave them a smile. As the door closed again she dropped her fuzzy head between her shoulders and let out the saddest cry. She loves them! She knew they were leaving from the front door and not just into another room in the apartment! Amazing, these brains we have. Where does our love live? I’m not sure, but I think Ben, Ella, and Mo are trying to show me.
I sometimes get caught up in feeling like the modern world is a terrible place and that people today are so dysfunctional. A while back Mo and I started ranting that smart phones are some kind of evil invention. My brothers Dave and Joe contended that the world has always had plenty of disconnected jerks, reading their newspapers on the train and ignoring other people. Today I was reminded that the negative sides of human nature may stay the same, but so does the path to a happy and healthy life. Reading this article (check it out, it’s worth a read) from 1912 found at the bottom of this Gothamist post was very affirming for me. A young woman at Cornell was “discovered” to have similar proportions to the Venus de Milo (society’s standard of beauty) so a newspaper profile was written about her. The intention of the profile seemed very shallow and based on the woman’s looks. Asked for her secret to such physical perfection, she responds “Sane living, I have eaten only what I wanted and when I wanted it.” She then proceeded to use the publicity as an opportunity to share with others the simple truth of her way to a sound body and mind. She says:
“I have had lots of happiness in my life, but I never depended on dances or theatres for it.”
“It is simply natural for me to be healthy, but the real reason is to be found in the clean living which has characterized my ancestors on both sides. None of them was rich, but they all lived clean, sane lives.”
“I think when they blame girls for the silly things they talk about and the way they act they ought to consider their homes. They haven’t all had the sort of home that I have.”
Finally, the reason she agreed to the newspaper profile: “I should never have agreed to it at all if I had not been told that it might do other girls a great deal of good to know that it was possible to be absolutely strong and healthy.”
Well thank you Elsie, through the sands of time you have showed me that clean living, exercise, and a happy home are the true secrets to a sane life. Just as I suspected!