Every once in a while I get whapped again with the realization that people are so very different from one another. I know this to be true, but the evidence of it never ceases to astonish me, often stopping me in my tracks. A few weeks ago, my realtor came to the house and did a walk-through to give us pointers on what to do to prepare to put it on the market. She told us to clear out as much of our stuff as possible. “Pack up your things for your move and store them in your garage,” she said. “Take down all your pictures and put away personal items.” I asked her why and she explained that people need to see a blank slate so they can picture the empty house they would move into and think about what they would do to decorate.
I was floored. When I look at a house that I might want to buy, my imagination goes wild. I imagine all the things I might do with the space, whether or not it is already occupied. It makes absolutely no difference what is already in the house. Although, I sometimes get great ideas for decorating and use of space from seeing other people’s houses. But my realtor’s words reminded me that not everyone has an imagination. Other people can’t look at a space already inhabited and imagine what they would do with it instead. They need it empty to be creative. As someone with a wildly active imagination, I often forget that other people are not as lucky in that department as I.
In another direction on this topic, I love to see how the things I have used up, outgrown, moved past, and no longer need become treasures for other people. My cast-offs become someone else’s gem. Last week, with Sudi’s permission, I donated his full set of Cirque de Freak books to the middle school library, almost all of them in hard cover and in excellent condition. This was one of Sudi’s favorite series of creepy stories when he was in sixth grade. The librarian was ecstatic. Her set of the books is worn to shreds and she can’t keep it on the shelves. The students love it. She could not believe her good fortune to receive Sudi’s once-beloved books. Similarly, Sudi and I found a home for a giant box of his old skateboarding magazines at the local skateboard shop. The owner was happy to take them and said the teenagers who hang out in the shop after school every day would go crazy over them. There were many such moments during our yard sale a few weeks ago, when friends and strangers got excited over acquiring things I should have parted with long ago and had dis-attached myself from.
The fact that different families have such vastly different family values has crossed my mind several times today. It started when Tina posted a photograph of a super fire in the fireplace in their cabin at Big Bear Lake where she and Akili are enjoying the weekend getaway that Ron and I gave them as their Christmas present this year. I knew immediately that Akili had built the fire. He knows how to do it because he grew up in a house heated with a woodstove. I doubt that many mothers would cherish the thought that their sons know how to build a good fire. But I do. That’s a family value. I also love the fact that my children like to cook healthy and delicious homemade meals. Not everyone likes to cook. But I love it. And in my family cooking good food to share with others is a family value. Like myself, my children never cease to be amazed by people who don’t know how to cook. I don’t get why people would want to go out to eat all the time.
Today also found me reflecting on some of the events of the past week when Sudi and his girlfriend Leah came to stay with us while Leah was on spring break from college. One night while they were here they pulled a jigsaw puzzle down from the shelf and spent hours working on it together. I worked on it with them for a while before going to bed. When I woke up in the morning, it was completed. They had stayed up until the wee hours to finish it. I love that they did that, that they had fun doing a big jigsaw puzzle. Challenging our minds and being problem-solvers: family values in our family.
On the last night that Sudi and Leah spent with us, the four of us played Harry Potter Clue, a new version of the traditional Clue Board Game. Maybe we seem like a bunch of geeks to you, but we had a blast playing Harry Potter Clue. Our family has fun playing board games and card games. Fortunately, both of my boys have fallen in love with women who also like to play games and do puzzles. Sudi and Leah went camping at the ocean one night while they were here and they spent many happy hours playing Uno by lamplight in a little tent while listening to the rain tapping on the tent-top. I am reminded of all the hours I spent playing the mind-puzzle card game Set with my children. Yael spends many an evening playing Scrabble on her phone with Ron, who has phone-app Scrabble games going with Akili and Tina too.
And oh how our family loves the ocean. None of us can live far from the beach. My daughter posts sweeping photos on Facebook from walks she takes in the L.A. area that afford her a view of the ocean. These are family values, and are different for different families. Some families have never even been to the ocean. For our family it was the special summer vacation we took together every year. I love it that my children go to the ocean for renewal and inspiration and pure delight. Akili proposed to Tina on the beach at the Pacific.
Once, many years ago, I was talking with a friend when something she said made it dawn on me that it was a very important value for her for her children to be smart. Really, really smart. And for them to demonstrate how smart they are by what they do in the world. Contemplating that idea, I realized that I wanted my children to be smart but more than that I wanted them to be creative, that I hold creativity above intelligence. I am proud that my children are smart, but I’m even prouder when they show how creative they are. Their creative pursuits delight me beyond measure. I have many other values, other priorities for what I want to see in my children, such as compassion and kindness, generosity and helpfulness, ingenuity and resourcefulness. Oh so many things. But creativity is a very high value in my pantheon of values. Now that my children are grown, and I am aging, it means a lot to me to see my values and my passions reflected back to me in the values and actions of my children.
What are your family values?
Sudi and Leah with their finished puzzle.
The lovely fire Akili built in the fireplace at the cabin at Big Bear Lake.
Yael on a Sunday walk in SoCal with the ocean in the distance.