Finding beautiful moments in the mess

Marissa Marangoni

That’s what life is made up of, right? Moments here and there that are striking enough for your brain to store and bring back out again from time to time. I don’t know about you, but before all this quarantine business, I wasn’t really aware of those beautiful moments when they were happening, but because it feels like time has stood still in the last six months (Remember when we thought it’d be normal again in the summer?), I’ve found myself very aware of the moments that my brain is going to hold onto.

I’ve also found that being aware of these moments helps me access happiness a little more, and if there’s anything I need right now, it is the ability to do that. I’m not exactly sure how to tell you to hold onto the beautiful moments you’ve had during this time, but if you find yourself particularly captivated by something, take a little longer to look, to be there, to really experience the entire scene so your brain considers putting it into storage. 

Or, you know, take a picture.

Maybe right now you can’t come up with any of the joyful, beautiful, or memorable moments you’ve had in the last six months. Maybe reading about mine will trigger you to discover yours. Because I’m sure you have had a few. Six months don’t pass without beauty.

Without further ado, here’s a list of some of my most beautiful moments involving my child in the last six months.

  • Seeing the first person J drew. He’s been an artist solely focused on scribbling, and I was starting to wonder if he would ever draw the stick figures of my dreams—and then, suddenly, there they were. He showed the first drawing to me, and I almost cried out of happiness. A lot of the time these people don’t have arms, but, rest assured, he makes sure ALL of them have nipples. Which, essentially, means that all the people he draws are naked. His appreciation of the human form is impressive, but maybe I should be concerned.
  • Watching J’s smiles while he threw rocks into the creek at Sand Run. He would have stayed there and thrown them all day long if we’d let him.
  • Listening to J’s shrieks and squeals of excitement from my office as his dad taught him how to play War downstairs at the dining room table. For a 4-year-old, War requires some significant alterations paired with significant teaching, but it all sounded like it was worth it.
  • Watching J walk the dog. I think the image of my child walking our big dog will be forever etched on my heart. Something about the independence he’s growing makes me hang onto the sight of him walking in front of me. And him walking away from me, too. J had surgery during all of this to get ear tubes, and watching him walk down the hall with the nurse to go to the operating room in that little hospital shirt and pants made him look so small—and so brave. 

Note that beautiful moments aren’t always happy when they happen. I think they get that way later. Then again, maybe “happy” isn’t the right word—“joy” probably is, though.

  • Lying on lounge chairs on a family beach day, complete with snacks, beverages, beach towels, and swimsuits—but no ocean or pool, just hot summer sun, water balloons and a sprinkler.
  • Turning around in the car to see J fast asleep, sunglasses on, in his car seat on the way home from the first visit to my parents during quarantine. He’s never slept in the car. When J was a year old, we drove all night to go on vacation because we figured he’d sleep, but, instead, he screamed the entire 7 hours of the drive.
  • Helping J dig for “wormies” in the front yard, and then hearing him talk to his wormy friends (one was named Steve) as he accidentally smashed them. RIP, wormies. RIP, Steve.
  • J’s request to fill in his eyebrows. While he and I have always spent a good amount of time together, I don’t think he ever watched me put on makeup before, and hearing his sweet little voice asking if he can fill in his eyebrows isn’t just funny, it’s also poignant. It reminds me of how much he watches me and what I am doing. At times, that feels heavy, but it is also pretty cool to have such a big role in his life. 
  • The sight of J through the window playing with the hose at full blast in a winter jacket and hat. It had just snowed. It was April. His bare little hands were ice cold when he came inside, but he was smiling, and his cheeks were red. 
  • All the ice cream my family has consumed. We’ve eaten more ice cream in the last six months than we’ve probably eaten in the last five years combined. At one point, there were six half gallons of ice cream in our freezer. But ice cream means celebrating to our family, whether we eat it at home or not, and we needed to celebrate for no real reason.
  • The time in the beginning of March when J asked if he could have a “motorbike.”  His dad told him he had to ride a two-wheeler first (thinking that by the time he did that, he might forget about the motorbike), but that same day, he went outside and learned how to ride a two-wheeler in 20 minutes. He got the motorbike.
  • J’s COVID cuts. I’d only ever cut my own hair and one very unfortunate friend’s hair in college. J sat on a chair out on the patio, a towel tied around his neck, and watched a show on his tablet while I took over an hour to clip his disheveled curls. J’s second COVID cut was performed by his dad, and I’ll never forget the sight of them laughing, with J in safety glasses, and Dad using the leaf blower on his face to get rid of the hair clippings. 
  • The bus game. On a day when I was feeling particularly low, so low that I just didn’t have the energy or will to get up and really play with my child, J brought the play to me. He climbed on my back as I laid on my stomach, and he pretended I was a bus and he was a passenger falling off said bus. This game has become something of a staple for the two of us, and I highly recommend it. You’ll be hard-pressed not to laugh as your kid falls off of the bus dramatically while you wiggle around like a fool.

I have many memories tucked away from all this togetherness, but there is one more that really stands out. One day, it poured. I am not entirely sure how we ended up in my car, but we did. J sat in the driver seat, me in the passenger, and he was absolutely delighted to be hanging out in my 2011 Chevy Malibu going nowhere as the rain came down in sheets. We sat in the car for an hour while he pushed buttons, used the windshield wipers, and asked me all kinds of questions about cars, like how the steering wheel turns the wheels, and what all the meters and buttons and dials on the dash were for.

I think this collection of moments sticks with me most because sitting in the car in the rain was such a boring thing to do—at least, that is what I thought as we settled ourselves after getting pretty wet and closing the doors. I figured the activity would fill some time, but I didn’t think it would fill my heart. If there is a memory that truly captures the essence of my child, it is him being fully entertained, engaged, and excited because he’s sitting and learning in a car that’s going nowhere during a downpour.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing that comes from these small moments is the bigger picture they create of a life that is, despite the pandemic, still big and bold and exciting to a child. That excitement doesn’t stop with J, it passes to me.  His joy sucks me in, and I consider it a privilege to share it with him daily. 

When we look back at 2020, our children might want to know what they did and how things were different. It will be simple to fill them in on the latter, but without the little moments, the former will sound boring. Hold tight to your favorite moments. Write them down. Take pictures. Let yourself get swept up in your child’s tiny joys so when they ask you about the pandemic after we’re through it, you’ll be able to balance the overwhelmingly not-very-beautiful experiences humans were having across the globe with their own small moments of beauty, letting them see the bigger, beautiful picture that all of this will make in the end. 

I’ll tell J about sitting in the car in the driveway in the rain when he asks about 2020. Maybe he will want to illustrate this experience.  Hopefully, his art skills have advanced by then and our nipples will exist in a more discrete fashion under drawn-on clothing.

Marissa is the co-author of Urine Luck, but sometimes she writes about things other than bathrooms. Marissa has been writing for the Devil Strip since August of 2015.