To live. To live would be an awfully big adventure.
Nearly three weeks ago, Robin Williams, an iconic comedian and prolific actor, took his own life. For some reason, his death resonated with me. Maybe it’s because I’m still hormonal and sensitive after the birth of your baby sister, or perhaps it is because I remember falling in love with Walt Whitman’s poetry after watching his rendition of John Keating in Dead Poets Society. Or maybe it’s just because it reminded me of a simple lesson. We never know what battles others are fighting, so we must be kind to everyone we met.
I’ve been thinking lately of my reasons for writing to you and your sisters: what is my purpose, what do I hope you take away from my messages. Sure, I want a place to record your stats and achievements, our family adventures (since I have failed miserably with all three of your baby books. Well, to be honest, I’m not even going to attempt one for Violet), but also to pass on nuggets of wisdom that you three have taught me.
One of these lessons is your ability to find beauty in the world around you. You look for more than just aesthetic beauty, but beauty from inside. You love smelling the wildflowers on our daily walks because their smell is beautiful. You love to say your baby sister’s name because you believe it to sound beautiful. You want to be an astronaut and astronomer because the earth must be so beautiful from space, and the stars shine so brilliantly. You love for me to read from our book of poems because you think the prose is so beautiful.
In Dead Poets Society Williams plays a teacher at an all-boys prep school, in one scene he tells his students “But poetry, beauty, romance and love; these are what we stay alive for.” You, my petite chou, look for the beauty, you look for the love, you find joy, and you remind me to savor and enjoy the beauty in my everyday world.
At four and a half years old, your imagination has taken off, reaching new levels. You love to pretend our backyard is the moon, exploring the valleys and crevices on your lunar rover (i.e.: your old tricycle) while wearing your gravity boots (i.e.: your rain boots). You, your sisters (well, technically Lily. Violet’s just along for the ride in Daddy’s arms) and father play pirates. You have your “secret” hideout and search for treasures, coming up with elaborate play scenes. Sometimes I peek out at you four from the kitchen sink and I think that these moments are the reason I became a parent.
While you do look for beauty, you are also oh so very cautious and organized. These are traits that I see in myself, that I work so very hard at overcoming. For example, you are terrified of riding your bike (with training wheels) and worry constantly about going too fast. You have a hard time dealing with spontaneity, worry about the rules and being messy. While there is something to be said about approaching life in an orderly fashion, assessing risk before each new move; we need to learn to sometimes just jump: Without thinking. We need to feel more, and think less. “You’re only given one little spark of madness,” Robin Williams once said. “You mustn’t lose it.” This is the spark of impulse, insight, enthusiasm and inspiration that is essential in life. This is what makes life messy. This is what inspires us to take risks. And then I think about how messy life can be, I think about how your future glimmers with possibility.
One of William’s most famous lines is when he jumps onto a classroom desk in Dead Poets Society and tells his students “Carpe, carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.” And this, my love, is perhaps the most poignant reminder to make the most of our days. Go and lead an extraordinary, beautiful and messy life.
I love you more than all the stars in the sky and the water in the oceans.