Bringing it all Back Home
There’s a line from The Little Prince that’s on my mind these days. The book itself is full of wisdom and beauty and I’ve loved it at various stages of life. I think I first discovered it as a child and was captivated by the drawings of the boa constrictor digesting an elephant. Then, during my later teenage years, it was the Fox and the Rose with whom I became fascinated and I must confess that it is to them that my thoughts usually return.
I’ve read the book in English, French and most recently Italian and I’m listening to it in my car in that language, luxuriating in the flow of the sound and the extra dimension of meaning that it opens up. And so when I think about the Fox and the wisdom she imparts to the Little Prince, Italian is the first language I hear her words in.
“E il tempo che tu hai perso per la tua rosa che ha reso la tua rosa cosi importante.”
“It’s the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
I’m heading out alone across the ocean tomorrow to London for a week and this idea has been resonating as I think about my family here and the crazy wonderful life we lead which teeters just on the right side of impossible. With a threenager, a real live teenager, a lovably larger than life American Pitbull and a husband with a very demanding job, the borderline chaos and limitations on any personal space or time can sometimes be a little overwhelming.
However the truth is that it’s in the moments where everything seems to be happening at once that the true magic occurs- if you allow it to. The true beauty and significance of family life lies in the moments where my daughter is demanding my full attention whilst my son is grappling with some unfamiliar aspect of teenage life, requiring real time, thought and discussion, and our dog is desperate simply to play- with anything at all. For that brief time I am allowed, despite myself, to give unconditionally to those closest to me. I can’t put a limit on my time or the energy with which I help them and so I’m strengthened immeasurably. As some dear friends of ours whose children have now flown the nest commented over a recent dinner, “These are the best times, while all the family is at home together.” I know that in years to come I will look longingly back on these days and sigh wistfully for the youth of my now adult children.
I think that the Fox’s words also have resonance for all of the relationships which we humans have with one another. It’s when we forget the need to control our time, when we waste it, so to speak, on another in a way that often brings us no personal gain that we can gain glimpses of the best of our own humanity. “So when you see your neighbor carryin’ something, Help him with his load,” Bob Dylan sings in the closing verse of his enigmatic Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest. So, the behaviors we learn through family living at home really can be turned outwards and shone on the rest of our world. As I heard from someone, somewhere once, “There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet.”