The Mini Cooper returns to America, 2002*
- Live in Montana and watch a winter storm move in across the mountains.
- Live in a waterfront house—ocean or lake—anywhere.
- Win the Pulitzer Prize. Or the National Poetry Award. Or be asked to become the Christopher Gray of Chicago. (Go ahead, I'll give you bonus points if you know what I am talking about.)
- Bike across the United States.
Given where I am in life, given my age, my health, my finances, my profession, my marriage, my family, and my husband's age, profession, finances, and family, there are some other things I am pretty darn sure I am never going to do:
- Live in a house that is 900 sf or less. (Where would we put the gongs, let alone the marimbas, xylophones, drums, and timpani?)
- Own a Mini Cooper.* (Same issue as with a small house.)
- Spend a year crisscrossing the United States—Gettysburg, Mt. Desert Island, Savannah, Key West, Missoula and the Lolo Pass.
Somedays I look at my "never" list and my "pretty sure not" list and sigh just a little. Or a lot, depending on the mood.
It reminds me of Dumbo.
As a child growing up in the 60s, almost every single Sunday night revolved around "The Wonderful World of Disney" on television. And somewhere in that opening montage, there were scenes of Disneyland and the Dumbo ride.
How I wanted to go to Disneyland and ride the Dumbo ride. How, when my parents talked of summer vacations, I prayed that the magic word, "Disneyland," would be spoken.
It never was. Looking back, we took some pretty amazing trips for a blue-collar family, but Disneyland was not one of them.
So when at the age of 32, I finally got to Disneyland and finally rode Dumbo with a very young Ben, it was too late. Don't get me wrong: I loved Ben's excitement. Ben loved Disneyland. Ben loved riding Dumbo. But I could not call up the 10 year old girl I used to be and thrill to riding Dumbo for my own sake.
I recently recounted this story to my friend Margo. We laughed as I explained that what I now realize is that when I finally got to Disneyland, I didn't want to ride Dumbo. I wanted to own a Dumbo. I wanted a fiberglass Dumbo fresh from Disneyland. Not the whole ride, just one of the Dumbos in my backyard. One with a pink hat. I think it'd make a really good planter, with flowers and trailing vines where the seats are.
I looked at Margo and said, "I want to say to Disney, 'Sell me a Dumbo.'"
I'm never going to have a Dumbo. I'm never going to have a Pulitzer or a waterfront home either. I'm not even going to get the Mini or the small house.
Life is what it is and at some point, you let go of some dreams and wishes. You take satisfaction in what you have. You count your blessings, and mine are many. I am blessed with an extraordinary degree of good health which, given the cancer, I should not have statistically. I am blessed with a husband and a rich marriage I never expected to have. I am blessed with wonderful children, with an amazing daughter-in-law, and with a granddaughter on the way. I am blessed with incredible friends and a community in which I am allowed to serve.
Blessings rain down upon me every single day.
And yet, as I recently wrote a friend, I sometimes find myself hemmed in by my life. The parameters in which I live sometimes chafe and the chafing bubbles up between the lines. I bump my head against them. I worry that as I set aside the unattainable dreams (goodbye, Pulitzer), I run the risk of setting aside other attainable dreams, of not challenging myself to even try to attain them. I run the risk of accepting the status quo even if it doesn't quite fit, just because it is so darn comfortable and easy. My greatest worry is that by not reaching, stretching, growing, I will diminish my engagement with the world and with my deepest self.
So I need to be sure to hang onto some of my dreams, dreams which I have not even listed above. I need to be able to reach into my pocket and pull out a rainbow, or a blue-bordered handkerchief, or a song. I need to be able to continue to live life deliberately and as fully engaged as possible.
But I still want a Dumbo.
*The Mini Cooper was unavailable in America from the late 1960s until 2002. The ad, dating from its reintroduction, is classic.