As a child, I was never much of a collector. There were a few things like my Strawberry Shortcake figurines (that still smell 30 years later — talk about nostalgia) and a handful of My Little Ponies, but nothing of that much importance, and nothing like the collections my daughter has. They range from tiny plastic jewels that have most likely fallen off hair clips or fancy greeting cards, to a group of rocks or a mismatched selection of trinkets that seemingly have nothing to do with one another. (But take Zoey’s word for it: they do.) An empty box almost elicits more joy from her than one boasting presents, because to her, its emptiness just begs to be filled with a world of exciting, yet-to-be-found treasures.
When I ask if maybe we need to get rid of some of these things, she looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind. To her, all of those things mean something. And to be honest, I get it.
Because there is one thing that I collect that is of great importance to me. Collected throughout my teen years and college and even into today, they aren’t even things–they are words. For as long as I can remember, I have been a collector of quotes.
A simple journal was always the perfect gift for me, because its pages could hold hundreds of inspirational words. I have a collection of them, all different shapes and sizes, all of them documenting, in essence, the things I have found important in my life. And if someone ever told me I had to get rid of one of these, I, like Zoey, would have looked at them like they had two heads. No way. No how.
One of my favorite — and first — quotes that I copied into one of these blank books was one by Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet during my high school years:
Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
I loved the imagery that quote evoked, how she turned hope into a tiny bird, its voice filled with wishful songs. It’s a hopeful quote, but it’s also one of persistence. This poem has stuck with me over the years; it is one of the few I can recite from memory. As I’ve gotten older, and even moreso these days, I wonder if maybe that hope really is singing words: Words that we just can’t hear, because we’re not paying close enough attention.
I’ve always considered myself to be a positive, hopeful person. That being said, I’m also a worrier. It’s not that I worry about terrible things happening, it’s just that I want SO much out of this one, precious life for myself and the lives of people that I love. As you can imagine, this combination often causes me a little strife, so I’m trying to work on worrying a little less and hoping a little more.
As for me, I think this Everyday Nostalgia project is helping. Here I am, only ten weeks into this series, and it seems like every week something happens that lends itself to the story that I end up writing. Perhaps what’s most likely happening is that I’m just paying more attention in my life and to the things that are going on around me.
I’m paying more attention to the sound of Zoey’s laughter as we share a silly story. I’m paying attention to the sound of my own childhood, which I hear through my mother’s voice when I talk to her on the phone. I’m paying more attention to the quiet time when I don’t have Zoey, and I’m starting to look at it as an opportunity to rediscover the me that I’d lost so long ago. I’m paying more attention to the moments that surround me in my everyday life.
Moments like the one that happened the other day, when Zoey saw her principal outside after I picked her up from school. She excitedly asked if she could give him a hug, and when I said yes, she ran toward him as if he were Santa. And when I saw him, kneeling down, his smile wide, his voice calling her name, his arms outreached to embrace her, my heart caught in my throat. For a brief moment, I felt like time stopped just so I could pay attention to this moment: to the sound of Zoey’s fast footsteps and her little backpack thumping against her tiny back, to their collective joy, which radiated from their happy faces as they shared that simple hug, and to the way my heart felt watching this special moment between them. And it was in this brief moment — one that could have passed me by — when I realized that some of the things I’m hopeful that Zoey will have in her life, she actually already has. She won’t be loved beyond her wildest dreams, she is loved that way now: by me, her family, her friends, her teachers, and the people who take care of her during the day.
I walked up to them, smiling, and the principal reached his hand out toward mine. Although I had a million things I wanted to say, I simply said thank you, because those words said everything I needed to say.
* * *
It’s time to start paying attention to the moments and memories, and to the people and passion, that create hope in our lives. I will look to all these simple, important things and tuck them away for safe keeping — just like Zoey does with her treasures. And in doing so — in paying attention — I will realize that hope is already here. It’s all around us. It’s in our laughter and our hugs and our stories. It’s in the songs we sing and the quotes we memorize and the little happy things we collect. It’s in our joy, and it’s even in our sorrows. It’s in the things we fight for and believe in and work toward. It’s in our hands, and it’s in our hearts.
* * *
Listen carefully: Do you hear the sound of hope singing in your life? Share with me what you hear in its songs.
Week 10 Suggested Reading
“Shane Lopez, the world’s preeminent expert on hope, shares his expertise and wisdom on what hope is, how to create more of it in your life, and how to teach it to others, with the aim of meeting your goals, leading a happier, more flourishing life, and making the world a better place.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness
* This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you purchase a product after clicking an affiliate link (and it doesn’t even need to be the product I’ve linked to), I receive a small percentage of the sale for referring you, at no extra cost to you.*
Just joining me on my journey? Catch up on the Everyday Nostalgia series here.
At the Nostalgia Diaries, our goal is to help you simplify, enhance, and engage your lives by focusing on the most important things: remembering, appreciating, believing, and becoming. It’s all about celebrating the past to create better days today.