The other day, I opened up a fresh new toothbrush. Is there anything so refreshing as a new toothbrush, scraping with enhanced efficiency across your teeth and gums, making your mouth feel cleaner and fresher and altogether more alive than the poor old faded bristle one did? Well, okay, there are lots of other refreshing things, but this was mine on this particular day. It got me to thinking about the little pleasures we have in everyday life, and about how we should take pause and appreciate them.
When I was working as a public health nurse and travelling all over Nova Scotia, my kids were having a difficult time adjusting to me working. I’d come home at the end of the day and be unable to share work stories with them as they were about troubled families, and involved confidentiality and altogether too much information for the littler set. So instead I would tell them about the “gift” I’d been given that day. The gift could be a baby’s smile, a hug, a cloud that looked like a duck, a scarlet maple tree eager to change to fall colours before all its friends, standing like a flame in the woods.
One day I passed a man, sitting on some farm equipment on a hill. His Holstein cows were clustered around him and he was cutting slices of the apples he was eating and hand feeding it to them. A slice for the cow, a bite for the farmer. I could see the farmer’s face, and it was filled with love. After each slice, he’d give the cow a scratch. They’d lean into the scratch. It was altogether lovely, despite the muddy yard, the tumbledown barn, the obvious poverty of the place. I can still see it.
Another day I’d spot a tiny flower struggling to gain purchase on a cracked rock, or report a painting I’d seen in a family’s house, painted by their great-grandfather, carefully preserved. The kids came to expect my stories, and over dinner we’d talk about the little happy things they’d seen, too.
Everyone is older now, and I imagine a lot of the little things in life are covered by noise and darkness and worries and cynicism. Occasionally the kids delight me with a description of something marvellous they’ve spotted; my one son has become an excellent photographer, the other a designer and writer. Not much slips by them. I just hope they take the time to really see things and feel them.
Even if it’s only a fresh toothbrush.
Credit for toothbrush photo: thomas keeley