Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The things we take for granted

I am on a great adventure here in Asia. I’ve stood on the Great Wall of China on a bitter cold December day and watched my breath float across the frozen hillside. I’ve seen the sunrise turn the towers of the ancient Angkor Watt temple from purple, to pink, to orange, to brilliant yellow. I’ve savored coffee-drenched pineapple tarts on a crumbling rooftop in Malaysia. I’ve sat under palm trees and watched Bali’s famous surf lick the sand. I’ve lain under a mosquito net in a beach- shack on stilts in Indonesia, letting the ocean’s lullaby rock me to sleep. I’ve danced under a full moon and sent a sky lantern sailing into the starry night abyss in Thailand. I’ve been transported back in time to my childhood innocence as I marveled at fire flies dancing in Bodhi trees. I’ve spent hours wandering the main streets and hidden back alleyways of Singapore sampling a fare share of crispy roti prata and spicy Laksa along the way.

Not to mention a couple years ago, I licked a gooey coconut gelato cone under the Leaning Tower of Pisa, washed my face in a crystal clear mountain stream in Scotland, marveled at the awe-inspiring Colosseum as it cast its afternoon shadow over Rome, shared footing with Stonehenge on a grassy, dew covered plain, stared breathlessly at original Picasso's in Barcelona, and listened to Big Ben chime at mid-night. And these are only a sampling of the wonderful opportunities I’ve been given and experiences I’ve had in my short 23 years.

Yet, in these last few weeks, as I face with my family one of the more difficult times in our lives, and as I ponder, as is human nature to do during times of trial, my most treasured memories, it is not these extraordinary, fleeting moments that top the list. They, of course, will always have a place in my heart. But instead, it is the more subtle, every day moments, that we seem to so unfortunately take for granted, which first come to mind when I am reminiscing.

Every year around Thanksgiving time, Parker Knox used to (I’m not sure if he still does) write a column for the Capitol Journal about things for which he was thankful. I don’t remember if he listed 25 or 50 things, I don’t remember exactly what he said he was thankful for, I don’t remember for sure what day it was printed in the paper, and I definitely don’t remember what section it was in. What I do remember, though, is that it always listed things that we see everyday but take for granted. (Things like the fact that Mom used to cut that article out for me, even when I moved away to college, and leave it on my bed until I got home for the Thanksgiving holiday just because she knew I liked it and it would make me happy.)

In the article, Knox would mention things like how the first snow coats the capitol building in white fluff so creamy and pure that it looks like it was iced by a professional cake decorator. He talked about the way children’s laughter echoes off the back of Hilger’s Gulch when they are whisked down on a sled in an icy blur, and the way Mom’s hot chocolate with extra marshmallows melts the chill from your veins after you spend just a little too long out on that hill. He mentioned the way the sunset casts a sherbet orange glow across the river in the long, warm summer evenings and the way the familiar smell of a good book that you are reading for the 17th time feels like coming home.

Millions of tiny moments, beautifully average and touchingly subtle, happen during our short lifetimes. Many of them are simply that, moments forgotten, untouched, left stored in the dusty, moth ball covered attics of our memories. Yet, these simple, everyday things, the one's which we so often take for granted at the time, are the things that really matter most in life. So, in light of my new found appreciation of the "small stuff" and as a reminder to myself not to take things for granted, the remainder of this blog entry will be a list, a tribute of sorts to my family, Parker Knox style, of a small but incredibly meaningful memory, which I have with each of my nearest and dearest family members. Of course, every family member could have many, many of these moments beside his or her name, but these are the ones which I have discovered first as I have sorted through and dusted off the old boxes in my memory's attic.

Grandma Arlie: Many of my memories with you are in the kitchen, of course. My mother and father tell me I must have gotten my love for all things culinary from you. Particularly, I remember the way in which you would cut my crust off the toast that we would eat with oatmeal in the mornings. You didn't like crust either. Every time I taste apple pie and cranberry-orange muffins, I think of you, and I make cranberry-orange scones for that very reason.

Uncle Vinnie: When I was little I truly idolized you. I remember feeling so proud to be sitting on your team's bench at your softball games, your most loyal fan and cheerleader -- besides maybe Grandma in her high heels, but, then again, she was sometimes a player.

Aunt Darci: One time we had a girl's night just you and me, and we put on face masks. We tried our hardest not to move our face and risk "cracking" the masks. This of course failed miserably as, for one reason or another, we couldn't stop laughing. I also remember watching a "So you think you can Dance?" marathon and eating fried zucchini the summer I stayed with you while I went to dance camp in Rapid City. Where was Jeff for all this? Hiding, I'm sure.

Dayna: I remember your high school graduation party better than I remember my own. You had so many friends and family members wishing you luck and congratulating you on all your successes. I remember hoping to have such a wonderful high school graduation celebration when it came time for me to go off to college. I also remember feeling so cool the weekend I got to come stay with you in Brookings and just hang out.

Shelly: You used to "borrow" me for Disney movies, and I most clearly remember seeing "The Lion King" with you. I felt so special when you let me announce to the family that you were pregnant with Jordyn. All your e-mails from home, are the perfect home-sickness cure in Singapore, and I am truly excited when I receive one of those e-mail family updates.

Uncle Ed: Before my family had a video camera, you used to faithfully record my dance recitals every year. Even if there were some pretty funny minor malfunctions, I was always so happy to watch the recordings. It was so special to have you at my recitals every year.

Uncle Tim: I have mentioned this in a previous blog, but one of my favorite childhood memories is spending a few weeks in Iowa with you and Dee. I most clearly remember picking raspberries from the bush in the back to put on our cereal in the morning or ice cream at night, watching for Nicodemous on the patio, and catching fire flies for night lights. You and Dee have really become like a second set of parents to me over the years, especially after the summer I spent living with you while working at KDLT.

Dee: When I lived with you for the summer in 2008, some of my favorite memories stem from the fact that you became the best combination of a mother and a friend. I particularly remember eating dinner and sipping wine while watching American Idol and gossiping a bit when Tim was out of town one time.

Grandpa Knutson: Your grandchildren are so lucky to have grandparents who are so involved in their lives. I have so many memories of you from my childhood/adolescents/early adulthood as you and Grandma have always been constant figures in my life. But the memory, which stood out most to me as I was thinking back on them all, is a more recent one. I remember dancing with you at your 50th anniversary. I may have more formal dance training, but you and Grandma can still dance me under the table.

Jordyn: When you were born, I was so excited to finally have a playmate...though much to my surprise and dismay, you couldn't play Barbies with me right away. But, I always felt so mature in my 7-years-of-age when your Mom and Dad would let me sit on the couch with a pillow under my elbow and hold you.

Nikki: I don't know if you will remember this or not, but one summer I babysat you and Jordyn. I loved taking you in my truck to the beach where we would build sandcastles. I also remember cooking you macaroni and cheese and practically forcing Jordyn to eat while you would gladly ask for seconds.

Grandma Knutson: I do not even know where to start. As I'm thinking of all the wonderful memories I have with you, your box in my memory's attic is overflowing. The first things that come to mind, though, are decorating many cakes and the crazy, mission-like Black Friday shopping trips to Rapid City. I also remember a particularly long and intense Rummikub tournament with you, Grandpa, and Elizabeth and playing King's in the Corner (I think that is what it is called) when I was little and would stay with you guys.

Chad, Anita, and Shelby: Going to the races with you guys is one of my favorite memories from the summer of 2008. Shelby, I also particularly enjoyed hanging out with you and your friend at the swimming pool.

Cynthy, Fran, Connie, Galen, and Halley: I will always treasure the meals, laughter, and tears we shared in Palm Desert, California on one of the most fun vacations I have ever had (and that includes Beijing, London, Rome, and all the other wonderful places I've been to). Fran, I also remember the strange and lovely coincidence with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for Grandma's funeral. Cynthy, one of many of my favorite memories at your cabin is learning how to make white-sauce for green beans (and many other things) with you and my mom.

Dad: Of course for you, Mom, and Elizabeth there are more memories than can possibly ever ever be listed, so I decided to go with the most subtle of all. After my senior dance recital, you told me how proud you were of me and all I had accomplished. I know you are proud, but hearing it at that one particular moment in my life and knowing you would support me in what I hoped to do in the future is a moment that has always stayed with me.

Mom: You have always been such a loving, kind, and constant mother and friend that it is hard to distinguish one moment from another. They seem to blur together in the kind of way a child's finger-paint artwork will, mixing, swirling, blending, until it is simply a lovely little creation from the heart of a child manifest through his/her fingers on a page. One small, but significant, of many moments I remember is seeing you at the airport when I first arrived home from London. There is nothing like seeing your mother, so full of love that is so readily given, when it has been far too long. I cannot wait to see you again soon in Singapore.

Elizabeth: A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves-- a special kind of double. Elizabeth, I have so many fond memories with you, probably more than with anyone else on this list, and I know you have been made aware recently of many of them. One thing you always do, and I appreciate more than you know, is you always tell me you love me before we hang up the phone, and you are always the first to say it especially when it seems I might forget. I love you too.

With love, TIA,

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