Life is full of moments, big and small. The big ones erupt in a tangle of wars and natural disasters, of assassinations and untimely deaths: they often define whole generations. Where were you when the Twin Towers fell? Do you remember what you were doing the day Kennedy was shot? The small moments, though, are quieter, a little more ordinary, but no less defining.
I’m talking about everyday moments, like when you sit in a rocking chair holding a bottle and looking into your baby’s eyes, and she’s taking forever to finish and you don’t mind a bit. Or when you get off of work and your kids play on the floor while you put your feet up and watch the news, and every once in awhile they look up at you like you are the center of the universe and your mere presence means that everything is right with the world.
Or what about when you get back from a two year tour overseas and your plane is descending and you’re looking at the patchwork fields and the houses coming into focus and then your mom meets you at the gate and hugs you tighter than she ever has, and she’s crying and you’re crying, and it’s what you’ve been dreaming of since that damn plane took you away so long ago, and suddenly it’s not a dream anymore: you’re home.
But there are other moments, like that quiet time at the end of a graveside service when everybody is looking at the ground and a bird chirps in the distance and the sun is shining just over the tops of the trees, and you can smell the grass and the freshly turned soil, and you realize right then that some moments will never happen again.
Big moments are significant only within the context of these small ones. That’s why my grandpa’s stories of the Great War began and ended with the loss of his little brother, my Uncle Lynn, who died in Okinawa. That’s why my mother’s story of the day Kennedy was shot always ended with her crying by the TV while she rocked me in my little bassinet.
No matter how dire the calamity, it will always serve as a backdrop to the play of life going on in front of it. So remember well that hug, that kiss, or that smile. They are such little things, really, but in the end they are what make the drama worth remembering.