April 17th: Stuffed Animal Appreciation Day
This morning, my youngest daughter, Alight, bounced cheerfully into the kitchen as I was preparing breakfast. Alight is a ball of energy. She is always smiling, or giggling. She is always climbing on something. And she is –always– walking on her tip toes. Recently, we went shopping for new shoes. She’d try a pair on and walk . She found a pair of groovy Sketcher flip-flops that she liked a lot — but she wouldn’t buy them because she said, “They won’t let me walk on my tip toes. I always walk on my tip toes. I just have to.” When Breathe had to do her swim test at the Y, and was nervous about it, Alight is the one who said, “But Breathe, if you just go ahead and do it, then it’ll be over and you won’t have to do it no more.” She is a little gem, a treasure among treasures. So, this morning, she comes bouncing into the kitchen. She breaks a few eggs into the skillet for me and says, “What are we celebratin today?”
I opened my mouth to explain that today isn’t a holiday but her face was so … sweet and …. hopeful that I found myself closing my mouth, taking ten seconds to think of a response. Finally, I said, “I don’t know…. what should we celebrate today, Alight?” She laughed. “Can it be Christmas?” Me: “That would be fun, wouldn’t it? But we don’t really have any presents, or a tree…” Alight: “My birthday…. I could turn six today!” She laughed. Without responding, I leaned down, grabbed her around the waist and started tickling her. She thinks this is hilarious and it provided the distraction I needed. She forgot about celebrating something today…. but I didn’t. The conversation fogged my brain while the kids ate breakfast, it shadowed me as they did their morning work. I watched Alight as she switched to working on her phonics box, watched as Breathe studiously worried over her multiplication tables. School teaches more than numbers and letters; it teaches work ethic, self-control and socialization skills, cooperative play. And yet… it doesn’t really teach you how to celebrate. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember much about Calculus or even Geometry. I remember practically nothing about Astronomy except that it was stupid hard and, if it wasn’t for the books, I probably wouldn’t know what constitutes a run-on sentence. It’s also hard for me to remember to view each day as a gift, or a reason in and of itself to celebrate. Instead, I tend to view everyday days like April 17th as work days–dull blobs of gray that blend into each other until I can’t really differentiate between this day and last Tuesday. Vast amounts of time just lost, and all because they were “normal.”
That made me sad. Suddenly, I wanted the girls to not forget to view every day as an opportunity for creative expression, for personal growth, for gratitude…. for celebration. Just because a national holiday hasn’t been declared for April 17th does not mean I can’t make this day special, important or worthwhile. It doesn’t mean it can’t be a day to celebrate. So. While they finished their morning work, I quietly made a banner that said, “Stuffed Animal Appreciation Day!”, then quietly went into the kitchen and got out the brownie mix. Then I got the girls’ attention. “Hey, girls, today is a special day. It’s Stuffed Animal Appreciation Day!”
Breathe started smiling, threw her arm up in the air and said, “Yes!” We went on to decorate the house with paper tissue flowers and roses from our rose-bush. We baked the brownies. We set up our favorite stuffed animals, groomed them and told them each one thing that we like about them. We played games with the stuffed animals. We introduced them to the horses and let them ride some of the bigger ones. We even made a few of the most special stuffed animals Thank You cards. We had a fun afternoon. Nobody else in Nashville probably knew that it was a special day but, in my girls’ memories, today will be remembered as “Stuffed Animal Appreciation Day.” It was a day to be thankful for what we have, a day to appreciate something that we love, a day to celebrate. And it was such a good thing that I have decided that every day this week will be a holiday: tomorrow is National Sisters Day (I made it up) and we are going to celebrate sisters. Thursday will be Music Appreciation Day, Friday has now become National Book Fair Day and Saturday is Mommy and Me Day. We’ll still have school the rest of the week but our focus is going to be on appreciation and celebration.
Every day miracles happen. Intellectually, I know this. But sometimes I forget because I get too caught up in survival mode–I get tired easily so I put off things I should do today til tomorrow and my head gets crammed with sad stories, migraines and challenges. Responsibility weighs me down, makes me feel a bit overwhelmed and I allow the day to pass without remembering that simply seeing the sun rise and set is a miracle. Simply breathing air and having the ability to walk, talk, see, hear and taste is reason enough to celebrate. Life isn’t meant to damage me, it’s not intended to be overly stressful or difficult, and it’s not out to get me. I make it that way when I take my eyes off of what’s really important and subscribe instead to the modern idea of “progressing.” I make it that way when I think about what I don’t have, and worry about things I can’t change, rather than remember the things I do have. I have two beautiful daughters who are still impressionable and young today. It’s cool outside right now, the roses are in full bloom. I have my mother and sister. I have my writing and books. I’m capable of providing for my girls. I have music. I have a home. I have a car. I have food. I have the grass beneath my feet and stars come out at night for me to wish upon. When I am scared or alone, God holds my hand. My girls are the best huggers ever to walk on earth and I get snuggles every day. I’m using my pain-ridden past to advocate and help those who don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. And these things are true for me every day of the year, giving me more than enough reason to dance in the rain, to eat brownies for lunch, to smile and to celebrate.
Did you know that, according to Hallmark’s website, yesterday, April 17th, was “Blah, Blah, Blah Day” — that would have been fun. Maybe we’ll celebrate that day next week…. when we laugh about how boring the day is. April 15th was National Rubber Eraser Day—that makes the wheels in my head spin like cray… what would life be like if there were no erasers (can almost guarantee this will spark another post soon!). During this month, there’s also Lima Bean Respect Day, National Look Alike Day, National Picnic Day (that will be fun!), Cubicle Day, Kiss-Your-Mate Day, Hairstyle Appreciation Day (also going to be fun), Hug an Australian Day (wonder if Keith Urban would let me hug him on that day?), National Zipper Day is April 29th and, wouldn’t you know it, National Tell A Story Day is on April 27th. In May, there’s more fun stuff to look forward to, like National Lumpy Rug Day and, of course, Mother’s Day. Not to mention all the ideas my girls and I can find to respect and appreciate, like today’s celebration of stuffed animals and tomorrow’s day of sisters. See? Even if the world feels like it’s crashing down on me, there’s always a multitude of reasons to take a step back and celebrate.