I was 5 years old and lying in a hospital bed, all alone except for my new puppet, Pinkie. A Pink Lady volunteer had given it to me when visiting hours were over and the nurses made my mom leave, hospital rules. I remember holding Pinky so tight all night, my body tense and still in the dim light filled with strange smells, strange sounds, strange shapes. I had a growth on my foot, I couldn’t even put on my shoe anymore, and I was having surgery in the morning (thankfully it wasn’t cancerous, but I didn’t even know enough to wonder about that at the time).
Pinkie became my new best friend. She was there when I woke up from surgery and when my dad carried me upstairs to his old bedroom in my grandma’s house. We lived in Santa Monica, CA but came to Utah for my surgery because of the excellent children’s hospital, two sets of grandparents to help out, and a pack of cousins to entertain my siblings while I convalesced.
It was summertime and hot, no air conditioning in those days. I had to stay in bed with my foot elevated, not easy for a squirmy little girl. I made friends with the dust motes in the sunbeam of the bedroom window. On a few special occasions someone carried me downstairs, put me into Great-aunt Effie’s wheelchair and pushed me half a block to the pond behind my grandparents’ church and let me feed the ducks.
The days were soooo slow. No TV, no game apps, no computers. Books and crayons, dear dust fairies, sunbeam and Pinkie were my world. And then the sad, sad day when my brothers and sisters got to go to Lagoon, the local amusement park, with our cousins, and, of course, I could not go.
But here’s the thing, at the age of five I learned that out of disappointment can come great joy. After my foot healed, we made the long drive home (remember that no air conditioning thing? Yeah, that applied to cars as well, as did the no game apps, no computers, no movies, not even radio while crossing the scorching desert). My parents announced that since I didn’t get to go Lagoon, they were inviting me, just me, to go with them to POP, Pacific Ocean Park, a now defunct amusement park built on a pier in our hometown of Santa Monica with high hopes (quickly dashed) of competing with the newly created Disneyland.
Me, just me, and my parents. I was so thrilled. I still remember the excitement counting down the days, anticipating the moment. I remember putting on my best play dress (that’s right, we wore dresses to school, to play in…that’s another story). I remember standing between my parents, holding their hands, and skipping down the sidewalk. I don’t remember a thing that we did, not what rides we went on, not what shows we went to, not what we had to eat, not one single thing, EXCEPT the one most important thing, that I was there with my parents. We were there together, reveling in our shared experience.
As the school year starts, and new pressures and responsibilities are coming for our kids, especially in this uncertain year, let’s remember what this five year old learned, it doesn’t really matter what we do, it’s that we set aside time to do it together.
Let’s give our kids moments of our undivided attention. Let’s plan and enjoy the anticipation; let’s jump in and do something on the spur of the moment. It doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time, just a few minutes, set aside, when we show up, give our undivided attention, and be fully present with each other. These are the most important gifts we can give.
That’s the POP we all need!
Here’s to failing forward together,
Anne and Calvert
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