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Elan Vitae


  • Paige Nolan


Hey Sweet Girl –

What a lovely surprise to meet you in the attic today. I’m not used to having you greet me so unexpectedly. But then again, I was thinking of you. I had opened an unlabeled box and discovered some of your artwork and creative writings that I had stored in a clearly labeled folder: Elementary School Work Worth Saving.

From a stack of papers, all dusty and yellowed along the edges, marked with your Number Two penciled cursive, I felt you emerge and happily take a seat by my side.

This isn’t our typical reunion.

Usually, we meet because I go looking for you. The therapist takes me to you – it’s a gentle invitation to my past or a guided meditation – and there you are. I discover you and we do that inner child healing stuff. We have a conversation or I whip out my journal and write what I wish I could have told you then.

These reunions are about me taking care of you. I search and seek and you know, do the healing thing. These meetings are about me comforting you, re-parenting you, showing up in a compassionate way to make you feel safe.

And you’re not always 10 years old, like you were today. I meet you at five, I’ve met you at 16 – but today was different. Today, you arrived as the confident, inquisitive, openhearted fourth grader you are, and you didn’t need anything from me.

Rather, you were content and generous with your big brown eyes and easy smile, offering one of your many works, a book entitled, My Creative Book. You sat with me as I reviewed the Table of Contents, as I flipped through the chapters of book reports, poetry, and a short story entitled “Copy Cat” about a cat that learns to copy letters and becomes a writer.

With the chapter title pages mounted on colored construction paper and the neat presentation, I imagined this book was a class assignment…but knowing you, it could have also been the way you spent time on a Saturday afternoon at home.

Did you know in the 38 years since we were first introduced this is still my favorite way to spend time on a Saturday afternoon at home?

You’re the reason I know the pure delight of making something in the unique way I make it. I know the joy of paper and words and story because of you. You taught me how writing a poem can be a playground. It was always so fun with you – a hop, skip and jump through rhythm and rhyme. You knew how to relax, how to feel, how to be you – it was through writing, it was always through creativity. And you did it, whether the people around you saw it or not – you kept doing it, making things, keeping them, sharing them, enjoying yourself in the process.

I really like that about you. And today, revisiting this book with you, I realize how thankful I am – to you, for you.

I don’t know if you believe in the power of chance encounters, but I do. The gratitude I feel for you made me realize how important you are to me, how much I need you. My Saturday afternoons, they can get serious. They have been lately. I think I have to be so on point, so sure, so clear, so adult – I’ve got it all figured out. I can create so much good in my life, I can make my relationships strong, I can stay true to who I am + explore who I am becoming.

Except I forget the delight. I forget the joy, the fun, the play – I forget that it’s you and me, happily creating together, that is the living of it all, that is the whole point.

And I want to tell you something else. I read your dedication page –

It inspired me to call our mom and dad – I wanted to share your sentiments with them. Mom answered on the first ring. Dad was upstairs in his office, sitting at his desk in the room that was once yours, the room where you made this book.

When I told Mom about the book and read the dedication aloud to her, she sighed, “ohhhhh” and I could hear her smile in the breath – it was the sound of being touched by your presence.

“Isn’t that just like you,” she said, “you were always so creative, and you still are…you always will be.”

For a second, I thought her response might change me. Maybe I needed to hear these words from her. Maybe that’s why you showed up, for me to call home. But I heard her, I listened, and the words didn’t change me. Because I already knew.

Now I understand why you found me in the attic this afternoon. To remind me that I already know. No one needs to tell me the value of my creativity. I don’t have to make my creative efforts worthy by giving them serious, adult reasons for being. I just need the joy you showed me. I just need the delight.

And I have it – because I have you. You’ve been with me all along.

I remember now. And I know what I’m going to be doing with my Saturday afternoons this summer – having fun with you and some crisp loose-leaf paper, a Number Two pencil, and a whole lot of rhythm and rhyme.




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