Today I’m remembering small moments.
I remember being with her, us little enough to slide our little legs and Keds sneakers into the cavity under the basement stairs, our secret hiding place. Brown and mustard Tupperware spoons dipping into little Pyrex bowls of chocolate pudding.
I remember being with him, a man of few words: a quiet ride in the car, counting telephone poles (thirty-seven… thirty-eight… thirty-nine…) contented; the Roscoe Diner for lemon meringue pie.
I remember being with them, truest friends, giggling, wide-eyed: junior high sleepovers where conversation carried us til dawn. So many world problems solved, so many important conversations at age twelve; M&M’s and cool ranch Doritos.
I remember being with him, first date rolled into second date, all in the span of one evening. More to hear, more to say, more being near to be had; hot chai and an apple sliced with peanut butter on the side.
I remember being with her: staring into newborn eyes, all the world a blurry, tired background to the miracle in my arms; Meredith’s homemade chicken soup with thin sliced zucchini, an orange cake from Addie.
I remember being with her: holding her weathered, wrinkled hand, her skin paper-thin. The way she’d squeeze my hand at every crackly-voiced, off-key, childhood hymn I offered; plain black tea with Thick-It.
A thread runs through all these ordinary memories, moments held together by that word: with. The with-ness is what I remember most, seconded, of course, by the food that accompanied each moment.
I can still feel my knees crawling through the dusty basement hide-out, still smell the grease and sweetness of the cafe on the corner of Orangeburg and Dutch Hill Road. I don’t remember these places for the gourmet food, the earth-shattering conversation, or phenomenal decor. The places were not in and of themselves remarkable. The memories stand today because of the profound gift of two souls being simply and fully present in those moment. All in, all there, in the ordinary.
It’s firmly winter now, January sliding into February, weeks past Christmas. Around here that grey cold has settled into a deep freeze. Our ornaments are packed away and the tree is now mulch for the village park. This year I kept a bit of greenery, one strand of twinkle lights to brighten the bleak mid-winter.
I think about ordinary time. I think about all the years between Advent and the water-turned-to-wine: thirty years between Jesus’ birth and His ministry, death, resurrection. Who was walking with Jesus all those years?
Did he climb trees with his cousin John, wonder aloud at the stars with his brothers? Did he work with his hands, fitting furniture together, silent and content alongside Joseph? Was he with the teachers of the law, listening? Was he with the tax-collectors and the prostitutes and the poor long before the gospels recorded it? Did he walk with friends, make small talk as a man in his twenties? Did he babble and chatter on while Mary made dinner?
Before the miracles, and giving of his life, Jesus spent thirty years with and in and alongside those he called into being, in the midst of creation that he, himself spoke into being.
Maybe “with” is the miracle I’ve been missing between the verses, between the tweets, between the meetings, between the hustle. The gift of Emmanuel at Christmas is God with us, and now, the gift of the Spirit indwelling us, always.
I linger over those moments I was with my sister, my father, my friends, my husband. Real presence permeated all the details. I remember how love filled the quiet, carried the tune, held together all the rambling words.
With. This is not another line for an unending to-do list, or a resolution of x amount of hours per day. This is an invitation, a posture, a presence, being with, alongside, present in the midst of the grit of real life.
Today, in the midst of the ordinary, we are invited to be present with Jesus like two happy kids hiding under the basement steps. In the small, everyday moments, we can listen with the intentionality of a first date, over chai and sliced apples. There are new opportunities to stare into the eyes, and hold a paper-skinned hand, and hear the babbling sounds of those we love, of those we meet today.
Today is for small moments, for being with, being present.