“Can we go there?” my kids asked as we drove past the entrance to Lee’s Summit’s “Christmas in the Park” lights display. My husband’s parents live near the park, and we’ve driven through the display every year since the kids were born.
I surveyed the line of people waiting to get in. It extended well beyond the boundaries of the park, past the community college, beyond the golf course, which is located about 2.5 miles away from the display. Cars continued to enter the line, settling into a pace of about 5 miles per hour.
“Uh, no way,” I said. “We’ll come back. Those people are going to be in line for hours.”
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I shook my head in disbelief, wondering what would make people decide to wait in that line. What percentage of families would make it to the destination — probably hours from the time they entered the line — still in good spirits?
And I realized, these days, we are absolutely desperate for a moment. No, I take that back, we’re looking for a MOMENT. An experience in all caps. An iconic memory, a tick on the time line. We’re looking for something bigger than our regular old day-to-day happenings.
That thought has lingered with me over the last few weeks — that this concept of a bigger-than-life moment is something we crave. We’ll go to great lengths, orchestrate scripted events, encrust our homes with decorations to the hilt, wait in line for hours — all in the hopes of experiencing something ... else.
What else could draw 800,000 people into downtown Kansas City to stand in the general vicinity of a parade? Why else would we work into the wee morning hours to make sure our holidays looked Norman Rockwell-perfect?
What constitutes a MOMENT? Is it emotions? A sense of awe? A feeling of togetherness? And must it accompany an occasion?
I looked back over my efforts to create epic moments with my family. I cooked and cleaned and fretted, intent on my preparations culminating in a pinnacle moment of closeness and cheer. Which ultimately made me anxious that perhaps it wouldn’t go just right. And grumpy when my efforts fell short. And ultimately wondering if my efforts were worthwhile, and if, perhaps, I might have been just as well off settling for “nice” rather than aiming for “spectacular.”
My son wanted me to come see his latest Minecraft creation.
“I’m busy right now,” I told him. “Show me later.”
My daughter asked me to help her with a craft.
“We’ll do that later,” I said. “I need to finish decorating.”
When all was said and done, my table was beautiful, the meal delicious. We gathered around and ate, music in the background, lights twinkling. The kids ate, then fled the table to play, no more impressed with my efforts than if I’d thrown fast food on the table.
All I could think of were the little moments I’ve lost in my never-ending quest for efficiency, for productivity and for creating. What opportunities are lost? Conversations and giggles, engagement and snuggles?
Maybe we should have turned into the line for the lights that night. Of course we returned on a weeknight when we could zoom in and zoom out, oohing and awing with efficiency. But maybe the true moments would have taken place in the waiting: the conversation, the leisurely togetherness.
This New Year, I wish you a year of moments created by happenstance, of memories that are not made, but experienced. I wish you many invitations into other people’s mini moments, and the leisure to accept those invitations. I wish you a very blessed New Year.
Overland Park mom Emily Parnell writes alternate weeks. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @emilyjparnell