Sunday, June 21, 2009

What moment would you relive for eternity?

An essay in today's paper asks that provocative question.

It stems from a movie with a plot that turns on that question, as newcomers ascending to the Pearly Gates get to choose their best moment on earth to relive forever in heaven. The essayist reaches a sweet conclusion related to fatherhood -- it is Father's Day, after all -- but poses the question to his readers to consider as well.

That's a challenge I can't resist.

Some contenders on my list of relivable moments seem obvious, but ultimately don't make the cut. Memories of my wedding day are hazy -- I was so focused on not blowing the vows in public, I don't remember much else -- so not sure what I'd be getting myself into if that was my choice.

Giving birth was wondrous and life-changing both times. But it hurt. And anything that would have me spending all eternity in a hospital gown is a definite non-starter.

So the real contenders are more obscure.

Watching my daughter deliver an essay she'd written about brushing her cat's teeth for an 8th grade speech contest is one. Her speech was well-crafted and hilarious, and she delivered it with a poise I didn't realize she had. She earned a first-place trophy for it, and a spot on my "hey, that's my kid!!" favorite moments list.

Watching my fourth-grade son put his all into the softball-throw at the grade school track meet similarly stands out in my memory. He came in fifth, which was good enough to add one point to the team's track meet total. In track meets and other sporting events to come he'd bring home plenty of blue ribbons and trophies, but in that fifth-place success I saw his confidence begin to blossom. I'd be okay stuck in that moment for all time.

Most of my top 10 involve being part of something larger than me. Drinking a beer with coworkers backstage after a summer concert series we'd pulled off as a team. Singing Bach and Vivaldi in the alto section of community choirs with symphony orchestra accompaniment. Still singing in the alto section, but this time with my church choir in an abbey in the English village of Teweksbury, my and fellow choristers' voices echoing off ancient walls and mingling with the ghosts of those who had sung or spoken in that place over the course of 900 years.

These are vivid memories, flashes of personal awe and wonder. But I suspect they might dim in encore, and are best left as they are.

Which brings me to my choice: the evening of May 31, 1991. It was a graduation party I and other parents put together to celebrate the two dozen members of my daughter's 8th grade class completing elementary school. The kids in that class were extraordinarily close, and all but one of them had showed up, with parents and siblings, for pot-luck and Karaoke in a small outdoor ampitheater. The weather was perfect and the mood was convivial. The spirit of that evening alone would qualify it for my live-forever list.

But what puts it at the top is the way the evening closed. As the sun set we gathered up picnic remains and settled in to watch an hour-long commemorative class video produced by yours truly. The video had entailed hours (and hours and hours) of videotaping, marking time codes and editing in the waning days of analog technology. It was rough, but I was proud of it. The personality of every kid in the class came through, and it still stands today as a glimpse into the quirky perspective and promise of children on the threshhold of young adulthood.

We all - kids, parents, brothers and sisters - sat under the stars watching the video together. When it ended, we hugged and sniffled and hauled our lawn chairs back to our cars, knowing we had just shared a special experience we would treasure for years. We were nostalgic to realize what we and our kids were leaving behind, but eager to discover what might come next.

If I get to choose a moment to relive for all time, this is it.

So what about you?


KK said...

Lovely! You're such a good mom!

Chris Ronan said...

I assume the eternal "moment" would start after you were done editing the analog tape?

Pensive Girl said...

oh, man. i still have the one you did a few years later (1994) for our class. i treasure it. really, i do.

LO said...

Thank you for that comment! I didn't fully realize at the time what a special moment in time that whole 8th grade experience would be to capture. I am delighted to know you still have it and I hope it makes you smile!

Emily said...

Okay, I can't even try to think what moment I would relive because your recollection has left me thinking only of Emily in Our Town choosing an ordinary day to relive, a birthday - yes, but ordinary in so many respects - and just the thought of Emily saying "Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?" puts a huge lump in my throat.

Sounds like you guys realized it then.