Details, details, details
On Saturday, we were talking about the things we needed to do before Christmas and our departure for Ireland the day after Christmas. In addition to the usual things like wrapping presents, running countless errands, and making sure all of our clothes were washed and ready to pack, I had this column to write.
After I mentioned that I wasn’t sure of my topic yet, my son gave me his expert opinion. “Why don’t you write about the things you did today?” he suggested. I thought, but didn’t say, that ideas like this are why kindergarteners in general do not write newspaper columns, so I thanked him for his contribution and moved on.
Our Saturdays are probably not all that different from anyone else’s weekend ritual of errand running and attempts at rest and relaxation, made more complicated by the approach of the holidays and their accompanying demands. As we usually do on Saturday, we grabbed our shopping bags and headed into town for grocery shopping. This time, though, we had to make a detour to the liquor store to get Champagne for Christmas morning mimosas. Then, on to the store, where it seemed half the town was stocking up. He loves getting flowers, so I let him pick out a bouquet just inside the entrance before we headed to the produce section.
Back at home, we played, discussed the importance of dogs, and ate lunch. I got ready to go on a bike ride with a friend while my son ran around in the yard after Finny, our dog. After I got back from my ride, we had a snack while watching Paddington on my iPad, finishing it just in time for our Saturday waffle-making ritual. We have done this enough times that he is getting very good at cracking the eggs all by himself, and I rarely have to pick out bits of eggshell from the waffle batter.
All in all it was a very ordinary day. Boring, even. But, after my wife and I had put the kid to bed, I thought more about his topic idea. “Our life is frittered away by detail,” Thoreau crankily proclaims, and, when I teach Walden, I generally agree with him. The details, however, can have the sneaky ability to transform magically into ritual. The details are what make us human and bind us together.
When my son and I run our errands, we are mired in detail: Are we out of eggs? Do we have enough syrup for waffles tonight? What am I forgetting? (This time it was salt.) I am trying to decide how many tomatoes we need when Matt walks past in his green store polo shirt and says, “Hi guys,” as he always does. I am trying to dig my customer rewards card out of my wallet when one of our regular cashiers asks my son how kindergarten is going. I am trying to steer the heavily loaded cart to my car when my son does his funny little skip/hop, grabs my hand, and says, “I love you, Daddy” for no reason other than he likes to spend time with me.
As I pointed out in my last column, this time of year can be very difficult for many people because of the added pressures of the holidays. The details, if you will. We might all be better off if we were able to take a breath and look at the details not as burdens but as the small pieces of the structure of our lives.
Rick Magee, a Bethel resident, is an English professor. His column appears monthly in Hearst Connecticut Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.