Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Beauty of Average

We live in a brick ranch built in 1968. In a neighborhood of similar brick structures, all sprawled out generously on a lovely plot of land that was once two generations ago a vineyard. The other homes can be seen from just about every view in our house. Average upkeep, hydrangeas, evergreen bushes, occasional summer lillies. The lawns are let go on average about a week sometimes a few days past, but never longer. You can always count on the comforting drone of a mower from some direction, on either side or across the street.

   The neighbors that occupy the homes are a little quirky, but steady. They are even a little predictable and yet to me they are fascinating. We live with the town pediatrician, the judge, the retired minister, a couple of teachers and several engineers. Not a bad line up. Here we all are in American middle class, tending and caring for average homes, walking our dogs or strolling our kids. I never knew how friendly the average neighborhood could be. Everyone stopping to chat as they pass around the great circle drive.

   It dawns on me that I've always been fascinated with and even admired folk like this. People who do important work and choose to live rather simply. They choose to have an average American standard, tending and caring so vigilantly. I admire them. Steady. These are the kind of people who choose a path and stay with it, even if the times are changing or others are moving up and up and up. They remain. Committed.

   Its true that some of the world looks down on people who choose average. You see I think there is a difference between "being" average and "choosing" average.

   In fact, my entire young life, people all around me encouraged my dreaming, my high achieving goals, praised my fruitful endeavors, even persuaded my college degree path. I grew up believing that I was going to change the world. I believed it in every fiber. Ironically, so did many other people my age.

My husband was also praised and persuaded. His rebellious and self-important high school years proved to me that we could be an unstoppable duo. It may have been what drew me to him in the first place, that he believed also. Just like I believed. Watch out world.

Fast forward to my 30 year-old self, lying on my knock-off memory foam queen bed somewhere in seventies suburbia. The kids finally quiet, lying in their own hand-me-down twin beds, doors shut. Freedom. A lonely songbird sings his evening song just outside my window in the overgrown hedge that presses close to the house, the summer light turning a dusky blue.

I'm starting to give up the fight. The drive and the fight that was in me for so long. And it feels incredible.

Like a junkie coming off some addiction that claimed her life for decades. I'm all sweaty and shaky and still find myself at the kitchen sink, hands soapy and warm and gazing out the back window at our perfectly average, flat, grass-patchy yard- imagining perfection. Imagining that my average life exists between narrow cobblestone streets in Italy, immersed, drinking a real cappuccino at the quaint neighborhood bar. Sitting outside, my perfectly painted crimson nails glisten in the dappled sun with every sip drawn to my lips.

I know because I was there, once. An entire blissful semester that left me with the most hammering hangover. Always dreaming of going back to paint that magical olive grove on the hill in Umbria once more. I was just a college girl, emphasis on "girl". But I saw things, tasted things that most people dare not dream of until they are much older and in the way of money.

I went on a prayer and a whopping student loan. And so here I am scrubbing last nights lasagna off a 9x13 Pyrex pan imagining I'm that once not-so-average girl in Italy.

The trouble is twofold. One hand is an escape from dullness. Another hand is the desire for beauty. Neither is wrong. I'm coming off this high and realizing there is work to do. That life is not about the Italian streets of my memory, but it's about making an honest living. Working hard, everyday. Making a plan and sticking to it. Steady.