At first having young ones around the house seemed deja-vue - as if we were back to a not-so-distant past with our own children - the past that lives in Cathy's name-and-heart doodled on the cellar wall; the crack in the living room ceiling from Peter's head when he jumped too high; the instant memory, standing in the basement, of toddler Johnny hurtling down the stairs into his father's arms; a guitar pick in a dresser resurrecting a room redolent with Paul Jr.'s guitar music; car keys on a table reminding me of Mary Beth's catastrophic first year of driving - five accidents, many of them not her fault - and her quiet courage in continuing to drive.
But, no, these were new children, new experiences, - new, rich life. Twelve year old Stevie's enjoyment of my computer and my Sloppy Sloppy Joes (for breakfast, lunch, or dinner). Ellen, doing serious research for me about what movies we should go to - with two sisters and a brother with wildly different tastes, just one movie wasn't going to do. Claire, talking about her friend-who-is-a-boy-or-maybe-boy-friend- as I drove her to Sacred Heart Academy for her Summer Math AP class, sipping the coffee I'd made her in a travel mug. And, of course, at the Regal Cinema, Grandpa taking Stevie to the C.G.I - heavy latest "Transformers" movie while the girls and I chortled our way through the delightful and funny "Guardians of the Galaxy," agreeing that the hero was definitely a cousin to Han Solo. And those fabulous sundaes at Friday's - though how Stevie can enjoy popcorn in ice cream is, I guess, the result of having a risk-taking foodie for a Mom!
Sweet youth smells, after showers; the clasp of warm young arms, brimming with energy; the expanding happy density of a house newly - inhabited again for now, beds embracing new bodies, memories to live on in mattresses, in sheets... Such happy, unexpected pleasure for us for today.
Denise Levertov, whose wonderful poetry reflects her spiritual quest that ended in her becoming a Catholic, wrote once that we shouldn't want to re-visit past, wonderful experiences. What made them wonderful and valuable was that they were "What it was that once." Past experiences are rooted in a time, a place, a who-we-all-were that no longer exists. What does exist is being present to the brimful-of-life present, and optimistic hope for life in the future that is just as rich, as beautiful, as the past. At the end of the poem she counsels "Try/to acknowledge the next/ song in its body-halo of flames, as utterly/present, as now or never."
To be present to life is to be aware that every day and night is saturated with mysterious, loving meaning, that we ourselves are like the ongoing harmonies of a well-wrought song. Our ordinary experiences are infused with the light of the extraordinary. To be present to God is to find God's sublime beauty mirrored in a teen's joke, the deep gold of a buttercup, an exhilarating climb up a mountainside, a relaxing Summer dinner at an outdoor patio with friends; a toddler in a wet bathing suit crawling on your lap to give you a wet kiss.
And, knowing this, that life is saturated with love, we can sigh and thank God. Our pasts may be wonderful. But our presents and futures contain a promise from God that our faith can trust. Life itself is a good and glorious gift. if we keep saying "thank you" to God for life, we can truly savor it.