Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, October 3, 2007
Every few weeks, my good friend Rhonda and I go out to dinner. Our commiseration over enchiladas and Dr. Pepper usually evolves into a chat about the nine children between us, and the glory days our growing families spent living across the road from each other in a rural paradise.
Sometimes I can’t help reliving one particular experience she’s already heard me tell close to a bazillion times. But because it involves children we both love and because Rhonda loves me, she listens again and again.
It was an extraordinary moment wrapped in a humdrum day. I was at my kitchen window washing dishes when I glanced out into our yard and there it was: The day was pristine, I could see Canadian mountains in the distance, four kids were playing baseball in the barnyard, another one was flying a kite, two were playing on the tire swing attached to the huge black walnut tree, and two were splashing in the swimming pool.
It was a scene straight out of a painting by Norman Rockwell—literally in my own backyard—and its perfection took my breath away. I remember calling Rhonda to tell her about it.
Of course, it didn’t last long. Somebody got hurt or dinner was ready or something else happened to break it up. But for that brief moment, all was right with the world, and for as long as I breathe I will never forget how it made me feel.
I think it’s interesting how we humans spend our lives looking for perfection. We chase the perfect haircut, the perfect wedding, the perfect job, the ideal home, even the perfect partner. But hair grows, Uncle Floyd’s toupee falls into the salmon dip at the reception, jobs change, houses get old and drafty, and quite often, so do mates.
However, it’s very possible to enjoy flawless moments in an imperfect world. As a matter of fact, it’s easy—because they are everywhere.
Have you ever been at the stop light on Main Street just coming over the bridge into Ferndale on a holiday, and viewed all the flags lining the street? How about those spectacular flower baskets in front of Babe’s every spring and summer? And don’t forget Jake Locker’s moments of pure genius with a football.
The beauty part about perfect moments is we don’t have to try and make them happen—they’re just there. These sweet instances usually occur when we’re doing or thinking about something else, and there’s the key: You can’t really plan perfect moments, you just have to show up for them—with your eyes and your heart.
One of my favorite sublime moments happens every year at this time when I find myself traveling down Cordata Parkway in Bellingham. The trees lining that roadway are so glorious in their color it’s like driving through a rainbow. Perfection.
Sometimes, otherwise sad occasions provide glimpses of relative transcendence. A couple of years ago at an untimely funeral for a beloved family member, a camera caught a close-up of three of my sons, all pallbearers. It was a perfect moment frozen in time—the boys paying a loving tribute at an imperfect time in our lives.
The blissful slice of Americana I witnessed in my backyard happened in a second and then it was gone. But that doesn’t make it any less real. Thinking about it over the years has given me countless bits of joy.
Someone once said that God gave us a memory so we could have roses in December. If we catch and savor those perfect moments, we can collect and enjoy gardens of roses anytime we want.