I love written language. A perfect turn of phrase strikes a chord in me when I read it. Sometimes the way an author expresses an idea is as beautiful to me as Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune played by a master of piano. For as long as I can remember, I have kept a journal of perfect sayings, perfect paragraphs, perfect dialogue, and beautiful ideas from the many books I read. I love that moment when I read something, then screech to a halt and hear my brain say, “Wow! That is so true!” or “What a beautiful way to put that!” or “I never thought of that in exactly that way … or at all.” Some of the books I have read are beloved by me as much for the beauty of the language, the author’s gift of expression, as for the content of the story.
I love it when a writer makes me cry, makes me laugh, and, especially, makes me think. When I feel connected to what the author is saying, inspired, or challenged by their thoughts and words, I can fall down a rabbit hole and find myself still reading eight hours later.
I often come across common phrases that we have used so often or for so long in our daily lexicon that I forget their origins or true meaning. Reading Haven Kimmel’s The Used World recently, the phrase spending time jumped out at me and hit me upside the head like a frying pan. I would venture to guess I’ve heard those words together a million times in my life but, incredibly, I had never thought about their true meaning.
SPENDING time. Time is a commodity, just like money. Once we use it up, or spend it, it is gone forever. Other than work and obligations, the ways in which we chose to spend that commodity are up to us. I like to spend time with my husband, my family, my insular group of friends. I also spend a fair amount of time alone, by choice. I SPEND this “spare” time reading, cross stitching, writing, crafting, creating. That’s the stuff that soothes my soul and makes me feel fulfilled. That feeling is the return on my investment of time.
As I thought about the phrase, I looked back with gratitude that, while I had the chance, I spent a lot of time with my mother. When I was a child, I cherished our time together. My mother worked a stressful nine-to-five job all of my formative years. I know now that there were so many times she would’ve liked to spend some time on herself, relaxing, reading, just hearing herself think. Instead, she spent most of her time away from work cooking and cleaning for our family. She also carved out time to sit by the pool with me, to take me shopping, just the two of us. When I was very young and sick or just feeling blue, she would take me into her lap in this ugly naugahyde chair we had in the den. I would close my eyes and rest my head on her shoulder and she would trace light circles on the skin of my face with the tips of her fingers. There was something so soothing about that contact, that I would be lulled into feeling safe, secure, just feeling better. I may be fifty-seven now, but I still sometimes yearn for something that would give me such a feeling of a soft place to fall in this life.
When I became an adult and got married at twenty years old, I still loved spending time with my mother. We shopped and lunched together nearly every Saturday for over sixteen years. These shopping trips were not about spending money, but about spending time together. We took weekend trips to the beach together and I got to know my mother on a much deeper level as we walked the tide line looking for shells and sharks teeth and dined at our shared favorite restaurant, The Sea Captain’s House.
My mom had been the strict parent, always our mother when we were kids. She wasn’t interested in being our friend and didn’t care whether we liked her for a particular decision she made for us. She always made the right decision for her children whether it was the popular decision or not. As an adult, I respected that. I was grateful for the guidance my brother and I had gotten along the way. We became real friends and I cherished the time we spent together. When I lost my mom a little shy of her sixty-second birthday, when I was just thirty-six, I had few regrets. I would’ve loved to have another forty years with her, but at least I had a thousand memories in the vault of the times we spent together. I wouldn’t trade in those times for a million dollars. They were the definition of Time Well Spent.