Need to reclaim wonder this year? I certainly do. I recently wrote something for Hello, Dearest (the MOPs blog) on my new self-discipline of wonder – “Wonder Walks”:
When I was eight years old, my mother placed a book in my lap and told me to read the entire thing by the end of the week. I looked down at the front cover, which had an illustration of a monocle-clad, top-hat cat, and read the title – Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, by some guy named T. S. Eliot.
“There’s wonder in there,” Mom said.
She was right. Mr. Mistoffelees – the trickmaster, Rum Tum Tugger – the contrary cat, and Macavity – the infamous master criminal were nothing short of enchanting. But the true magic came that weekend. My mom placed something else in my lap – two theater tickets. We were going downtown together on a mommy-daughter date to see Cats, the musical.
When those felines – characters I knew and adored from the book – slinked down the aisles and crawled onto the stage, well, there is no other way to explain it; I was wonderstruck. And it stuck. I studied Eliot’s works as a literature major, and Lloyd Weber’s as a drama student. I encountered wonder in those late-night undergraduate days, just as I did as a little girl in that thrilling theater experience.
Years ago, I asked my mom about the inspiration for that event. What made her decide to give me the Eliot poems and then take me to see the play? Did she read about it in a parenting magazine or something? Did a friend give her the idea? Did she know I’d focus on literature and theater as a student?
“No, honey,” she replied, “I was spent. Your sister was a difficult toddler. I was working full time. Your dad’s job was hanging by a thread. I was at my wit’s end. I needed to do something. I wanted to create a wonderful moment for you, but also for myself.”
Now that I’m a mom of three, I get it. It’s been a long time since I wasn’t exhausted. There’s a lot of stuff of life, you know? Things I was ill-prepared for. How can anyone be ready for the un-wonderful: infertility, tragedy, illnesses, health scares, anxiety, fears about children, financial instability? My baby’s spinal cord was messed up. My son has life-threatening food allergies. I became sick, almost overnight, with a chronic, painful disease. My dear cousin died tragically. My husband changed careers. Scary things happened in our country and in our world.
Along the way, in all of this “adulting,” I lost my Cats-awe, my childlike wonder. But then came … the gift of children. There are stormy days when my kids break through the clouds, grab me by the hands, and lead me into worlds of make-believe, magic and mystery: outer space upstairs, a school for stuffed animals, an elevator that takes you to fantasy realms. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get my head in their games because I am too distracted by real life. But still, they reach for me. They remind me to wonder, to play.
I’ve decided it’s time to uncover the buried sun, to follow my kids’ joyful lead more proactively. In other words, I’m invoking wonder again. In fact, for the past few weeks, I’ve been taking myself on what I’ve been calling “wonder walks.” I’m not in a hurry. I simply walk around my community, just like Alice stumbling across curious things, and follow them until I reach Wonderland…