Only hours (minutes?) into my New Year’s Resolution and I’m failing. Of course I am. Why would I think otherwise? Living present to the mundane is anything but natural. Anything but automatic. Eating healthy and exercising regularly is easier for me than noticing the holiness of life’s ordinary times.
Earlier this week—Monday, or Tuesday I’m guessing, before our mountains became blanketed over with snow—I was unloading the dishwasher, running through my mind all the appointments I had to keep for the week: sports schedules for kids, deadlines for work, blog posts I wanted to write…
….wait a minute. I’m supposed to be practicing being present, so I even have blog posts to write. Ugh!
I looked down at the task in front of me. I held a spoon in one hand, dishtowel in the other. How do I practice being present while unloading the dishwasher? Maybe even more pressing, Why? Why bother? It’s a chore. One of dozens I tend to every day. The sooner I get it done, the better.
Or is it?
I looked at the spoon in my hand, then at the half emptied dishwasher. How to be present…how to be present…Even in this very mundane task, how can I be present?
That spoon in my hand—in fact, all the silverware in the open drawer in front of me—was given to me by my mother; either as a wedding gift or years later as our family grew and grew. She wanted to make sure I had the essentials—and enough of them, too. When it came to silverware, any old set would not do. She helped me choose a good and sturdy set. Silverware that rests nicely in one’s hand, won’t bend when being used to scoop hard ice cream (when my children are too lazy to reach for the very good ice cream scoop she also provided), will still look nice after years of dishwasher time and family wear. Finally, a set that would coordinate nicely with my wedding set since my wedding set was no longer available.
This is one of my mom’s many gifts—her attention to the details of a thing. Not only this, but allowing such details to matter, even for everyday stuff—especially for everyday stuff. I serve apples for dinner in the Polish Pottery she has bought me over the years. I have sturdy spatulas for spreading cookie dough because she taught me to recognize the difference between cheap flimsy spatulas and ones with heft. I have baking stones because she recognized their essential nature in her own kitchen, so added them to mine.
These are only a few examples. I looked around my kitchen, spoon still in hand, and started taking note of all that covers my counters, and fills my cupboards and drawers. Practically all of it my mother has either directly provided, or been the primary factor for choosing the thing myself. Even how I organize my kitchen has been heavily influenced by her. I mean this quite literally. When my husband and I were making those first Army moves, my parents would travel to our new home and help us unpack. I would set Mom up in the kitchen so I could focus on the boys’ rooms. Over the years (and moves) I’ve adjusted things to suit my personal kitchen work style. But still, even the silverware lives where it does because of my mother’s knack for details.
I don’t know how much time passed while I stood there, recognizing my mother’s fingerprints all over my kitchen. Not much, I’m sure. But, whatever the length of time, it was a time filled with gratitude (and thus, not my pressing schedule). Gratitude for the spoon in my hand, the dishes still needing to be put away, and a mother who cares about the little things—especially my everyday mundane.