This morning, I sat at my kitchen table, enjoying a poached egg on toast, regretting that it took so few bites to eat, while savoring every one. I saved a good bit of the yolk until the last bite, intending to prolong the pleasure. As I lifted the small square of toast supporting it, the yolk fell to the floor. I was dismayed… so much for saving the best till last.
This set me thinking of similar laments. I knew a man who postponed living for most of his life. He waited until he had more than enough money to buy something he wanted and then thought twice about it. He waited until weekends to follow his hobbies, feeling too busy with postponed chores to pursue his interests. He waited for his children to grow up, complaining, “I’ll be glad when they’ve grown up and gone,” thus missing the best of them while they were young, fresh and full of life; leaving them walking on egg shells, wounding his wife’s heart, not valuing the children she loved and who longed to love him.
When they reached their teens and were nearly grown his wife said, “We’re leaving.” He said “Why do you want to leave now, when they will soon be gone?” He didn’t understand that with them gone there was no reason for her to stay.
Lack of money need not limit recreation. Hiking costs nothing but shoe leather, bicycling in the countryside is modest. Watch a local soccer match with your son, dance with your daughter. Make a barbecue from an inverted metal bin lid on bricks, with a grill and bag of charcoal; play badminton over a washing line. Encourage children to plant lettuces in a small patch or window box, water and watch them grow. Praise them and see the children blossom. Draw with them on scrap paper. Help them bake cookies, chat with them while you paint a fence together. Play “I spy with my little eye” with gusto and laughter. It doesn’t matter what you do with children as long as you have friendly interaction. Pitch a tent in the garden, or take them camping overnight or fishing. They’ll never forget the experience and hopefully, neither will you. Build precious memories with your family. Teach them to cook, garden or care for their pets. Whatever interests you is likely to light a spark in them. In turn, they’ll know how to ignite their children’s happiness.
The year following the divorce she was broke, yet they had one of their best Christmases ever. They agreed on a limit of five dollars a gift to spend for everyone in the family. The most ingenious gift would win a prize (a bar of chocolate). The prize went to the boy who gave a matchbox to his older brother with a handwritten ‘IOU’ inside for ten dollars, which was never paid, never forgotten, and remembered with love. They opened their gifts around the tree in their usual fashion, commenting and laughing about each one.
If this is a lean Christmas for you, don’t lament or stress about buying stuff you can’t afford. Share with the family that money is tight, but laughter is not. Challenge them to add to the fun with their own ideas and good nature.
People who postpone their pleasures, waiting to be more affluent, less busy or retired, often find they are limited by failing health as they age. It’s too late to play with your children when they are grown up. It’s too late to go hiking when your feet ache and arthritis has set in. It’s too late to explore the countryside on a bicycle when your joints are stiff. Holidays abroad are tiring; flights feel too long, pavements too hard to tread.
We are advised to live in the Now. I say love in the Now, too. Yesterday has gone, tomorrow may never come. The living and loving are now. Don’t save the best till last.