Monday, September 28, 2009

Family & Cookie Jars

Sometimes in life we lose focus of what's most important, we become disoriented and confused.

Sometimes those moments of confusion are fleeting and can pass by almost unnoticed and certainly without causing damage.

Other times, when the haze lingers longer it's more likely that damage will occur and when the fog finally lifts we are faced with the reality of our misstep. It was maybe even a fleeting sidestep, one that we didn't think would matter, but it took our focus off of what was important and we lost our footing on the path we were headed down and we didn't catch ourselves in time to get back on track instantly and save what was really important.

As I get older, and after moving a zillion times as an adult, it has become extremely clear to me that there are only a few things in life that really really matter. Family is right up there at the top of the very short list. If you lose your family, you have lost the second most important thing in this life, the first being your own identity, self-worth and self-respect.

Long ago a friend commented on "all the stuff" I had creatively arranged on a shelf in my kitchen (I thought it looked very artsy). He particularly mentioned an old cookie jar in the shape of a cocker spaniel and made fun of the fact I thought it was attractive to display. And he was right, it wasn't a very attractive piece to have staring out at everyone who wandered into my kitchen, but what he didn't know was that my brother had given me that cookie jar for Christmas the year before he died; it was important to me for that reason. My kids have most certainly made similar comments as they have packed and lifted and moved boxes of  "stuff" all over the western U.S. for me.

This past weekend as I was cleaning and reorganizing my office (and house), in anticipation of guests and in a complete overreaction to the Mickey-imposter who had visited last week, I took advantage of this unplanned wave of fall OCD cleaning to clear my house of "all the stuff" that didn't really have a purpose.

As I removed items and kept others, I realized that my house has unintentionally become a silent tribute to my family and friends. Some of the "stuff" didn't have a purpose at all, but I was still not going to remove it. Gifts I had received over the years, pictures of children, family and friends, furniture that belonged to my parents, needlepoint pillows created by my friends, unique gifts from my long ago wedding to the father of my children, and small items I have picked up in my travels...all of these things have become part and parcel of the world I live in every day of my life.

I am comfortable here, because I am surrounded by family and friends and favorite memories through "all that stuff". I can walk fom one room to another and feel the warmth of memories calming me, soothing me, giving me a sense of place and home, even when they are so very far away in reality.

At the end of the day, at the end of life, these are the things that matter, the people who we think of, the places we remember, the choices we made, the family we loved and the friends we made along the way...

I don't have the cookie jar anymore, but I remember exactly what it looked like and always will. And I remember Jim's face when he gave it to me, just a I remember bits and pieces of life with every member of my family and so many of my friends. I dropped the cookie jar when washing it one day. It had been cracked early in its life but I had glued it back together. When I dropped it into the sink that last time, I was multi-tasking and talking on the phone while reaching with one hand for a towel and holding the cookie jar  on my soapy palm. It slipped and before I could regroup and catch it,  it was shattered. The crack had weakened the jar to begin with and it didn't take much for it to shatter completely.

Life begins with family. Life is lived with family. Life is sustained by family. Life is endured with family. Life is learned with family. And life should be celebrated with family.

Don't we all hope for the day when we will be greeted by waiting family after our time on earth is over? I do.

There is simply nothing more important than a respect and love for self and for family, not differing opinions, not opposing views, not different lifestyles  - those are the small cracks that can leave us vulnerable.

I love my family, and I loved that cookie jar. We should be careful to focus on what's important in  life. Too many diversions can cause damage we aren't even aware of, small cracks that are vulnerable during those times when life's demands cause us to multitask or sidestep or not be quite as focused as we should be.

I am lucky to still have family and my friends - inspite of all the cracks in my life. I am lucky to have the memory of my brother, my mother, my father, and the hope of a future reunion with them at the end of my life, and of course, I am lucky to have had that ugly cracked cookie jar that I loved so much and that Jim was so happy to give.

Family and cookie jars. And friends. It's important to remember that the really important things in life aren't always perfect or pretty, sometimes they are even cracked, but those are the imperfections that make them real - just like you and me. Imperfections make us human and are often what lead us to perfection.

Jack Johnson "Cookie Jar"

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