Moments of Clarity

 

janet-and-grandchildren

Throughout my life, I experienced moments of clarity that occurred without fanfare or expectation and illuminated my future: moments of insight that arrived unbidden and surprised me with their power.

At fourteen, rather than going home after the church youth meeting as instructed by our parents, five friends and I took a joyride through the countryside in an old Ford. I climbed into the back seat with the Anderson sisters as we defied parental authority and took a joyride through a lake-tinged night.

The newly-licensed driver, the oldest among us, chattered nonstop, her ponytail swishing as she turned her head to look around, waved her hands for emphasis and ignored warning signs about an upcoming curve.

The sisters — made anxious by the speed, the darkness and the disapproval we’d face should our parents discover this crazed ride — held hands and worried in silence. But a sudden understanding liberated me and filled me with anticipation: I had lived my life based on the expectations and conventions of others; but as I traveled into my future, I would have the power of choice. My decisions, wise or foolish, would decide my future. Sensing my coming independence, I laughed aloud in the window-wind of the back seat.

At twenty, I walked across the grounds of the Wyoming State Training School with my special-needs charges: a group of happy, chattering female residents. We were returning to the ward where I worked and they lived after attending a 4th of July party where everybody danced every dance with total joy and abandon. We strolled beneath the fluttering leaves of large ash trees that filtered the light of a mellow moon and softened the lines of the institutional buildings we passed.

My mind preoccupied with thoughts of a recent break-up with a boyfriend I’d once thought perfect, full of self doubt and bleakness, I hardly noticed when Yvonne, a large woman with garbled speech, multiple disabilities and the mental age of a child, moved to my side, put an arm around me, smiled broadly and pointed at the gentleness of the glowing moon. Then, in half-swallowed words I had learned to interpret, she said, “I love you, Mom.”

In that instant, I knew as surely as I’d ever known anything, that throughout my life love would come to me from many different sources, that I would love and be loved in return. I slid my arm around Yvonne as we walked together through the shimmering night.

At sixty, sweltering in the heat and humidity of a Midwest summer, I sat on a chair shaded by an over-arching pecan tree, glad my husband Joel and our daughter Jenny were fitting and cementing stones to form a patio, while I had the easier task of entertaining grandchildren.

One child sat on my lap holding a picture book he wanted to hear “one more time, please, please, please,” while a toddler, fiercely determined, scrabbled and squeezed onto my lap as well, demanding “Me, too!”

I opened Grahame Green’s Jabberwocky and began to read.

When I married Joel, I immediately liked and became friends with his mostly grown children. Then, as they had children, I became a grandparent, responding, as grandparents do, with patience, pleasure, and love.

But always, unconsciously, I held something back, kept a part of myself in reserve, felt I was an interloper. Then, on this heat-slick day, holding two sticky boys on my lap, smelling their sun-warmed hair, I realized I had never been happier, that I loved and would protect these children and their siblings, that I was as totally committed to them as I would be if my blood ran through their veins.

Such moments of enlightenment don’t come to me often, but when they do, they enrich my life.

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79 thoughts on “Moments of Clarity

  1. This was lovely. One of the frustrating aspects of being a parent–as well as having two of my own–is that we may not receive those teachable moments when we are taught by others; indeed, we must go through something, experience it ourselves, for that lesson/idea to become part of us. That I was stupid enough in college to get into my boyfriend’s tiny Celica with several others, all high or drunk, that we drove to the beach late one night, passing cars at 85 mph, that I lived to tell it to my children…is a pure miracle (there was no accident, thank God). How many times had I told this story to my children, begged them not to be stupid like I had been? Millions. It was only years later when we got the call that one of our children had been pulled over, taken to jail, and forced to stay over night–said child had been drinking, thought they were OK, got in the car anyway, but was pulled over after 5 minutes on the road–that I realized sometimes we learn through experience, not simply when others may try to “teach us.” Those hard lessons changed this child’s life as it did ours; thankfully no one was hurt. As with you, that shed light on my future (and my child’s). Beautifully written. ❤

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  2. ❤ "In that instant, I knew as surely as I’d ever known anything, that throughout my life love would come to me from many different sources, that I would love and be loved in return." ❤ This is a beautifully written piece and this part I've quoted — I've shared that revelation and it's quite precious.

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  3. Thanks for sharing these moments with us Janet. In all the things that whirl around us, there are those moments that com e to define us. Sometimes, we aren’t paying attention. You were and that was a good thing. Your life has been enriched and you have enriched ours by passing these lessons onto us.

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    • I’m sure such moments have slipped by without my notice, Dan, but some did catch my attention. This week I wrote a poem about another experience I had a year or two ago and realized it could have been part of this post. I don’t know why I remember some so vividly.

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  4. Thank you, Janet, for reminding me of these moments. I remember when I was 9 and playing solitaire I looked around at my siblings and mother who were all fighting and I said to myself, “My life isn’t going to look like this.” And it doesn’t. I have felt God’s arms around me as I entered the hospital for a surgery. These “aha” moments of insight and clarity so comforting.

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  5. Lovely Janet, again you place us at your side. Love those moments, I who have long disliked children, recall when a friend’s daughter was born, she was forty minutes old when given me to hold, the tiny thing looked up at me, we connected , even though many would poo-pah that ..one brief moment indeed..

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  6. I would like to add to what Dan Antion said.
    Janet, you have so much insight and wisdom because you PAY ATTENTION. And that’s because you possess a “writer’s mind”. Thanks for so eloquently describing your moments of enlightenment.

    Who are the children in the photograph?

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    • Yours are among the kindest words I’ve ever read about my writing, Rita; they are very meaningful for me. The children are my grandchildren when they were a couple of years older than when I experienced my moment of insight with the two boys on my lap. There were two others yet to be born; and the oldest girl in the photo has graduated from college.

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  7. Oh, Aunt Janet, this is filed with my other favorites. Love comes from many different areas in our lives. Sometimes it comes from areas that we least expect it. The trick is to have the ability to recognize it before it fleets away. I absolutely loved this post.

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    • The other day, I thought to myself, “I need to contact Dawna. It’s been too long since I heard from her; I wonder how she’s doing,” and then you made my day with this comment. I’m glad your heart responded to this post, Dawna. Thanks for letting me know. And how are you doing?

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  8. I know we’re not supposed to have favorite children, but can I have a favorite post? I love, love this post. Such warmth and insight, Janet. Your wonderful writing reminds me of my own memorable moments of awareness. Thank you.

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    • How happy I am that you related to and enjoyed this post, Mary. I felt good about it when I finished reworking it. Were you able to identify any of the children? I’ll send you a quick email that might help.

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  9. It’s astounding I should be reading your post about enlighting moments today because just this morning I was thinking about my sister-in-law who I’m really not all that close to. Yet, she’s going through an extremely rough time right now and all I can think about is that everything turns out okay for her. I’m surprised at my own compassion, which happens so rarely.

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  10. I love reading about defining moments, I feel like I can relate to you more knowing some of your thought processes and what you’ve been through. I hope for moments like these of my own that I can also reflect upon.

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  11. What a lovely post! It’s amazing where these moments of epiphanies come from. It always amazes me how you can bring the pieces of life to the written word and as I read them I know exactly what you meant because it voices my own thoughts.

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