Growing up one of my primary chores was to mow the grass. This chore was far more pleasant than bottle feeding the baby calves or cooking dinner for picky brothers. We had a riding lawn mower and I could spend my time looking like I was hard at work so no one would talk to me or bother me, but all I was actually doing was just sitting still and imagining things. (I applied the same principles to my assigned task of raking hay on the tractor too.)
I have always been a daydreamer. Always spent far too much time in my head, working through ideas and dreaming up plans and home rearrangements and bold adventures, telling myself stories and imagining perfect scenarios for my future and the futures of everyone I know and loved.
One of my favorite teenage imaginings was to picture what my life as a grown up would look like. I would offer myself different scenarios. What if I became a reporter and lived in big city and had no need for a car and walked a few blocks right out my door to everything I needed? I would fantasize about my home and my future children and my future spouse. (Who somehow always happened to be whatever cute boy I currently had a crush on in school. Can you believe I once had a crush on a boy named Phoenix? PHOENIX! Was that his real name? I cannot even remember. But he wore a metal phoenix on a necklace. And in my mind he was “edgy”. Oh goodness. That memory makes me laugh now.)
This weekend I woke up in my bed, like always, and for some reason all I could think about were those hot summer afternoons sitting on that green John Deere lawn mower or riding atop that (also) green John Deere tractor and spending hours of each summer just thinking. Thinking about what my life would look like after high school. After college. When I was the grown up and I called the shots and I had a family and a daughter who could mow the grass.
Looking across the landscape of my bedroom in that early morning light, flooded with thoughts of precisely what I used to daydream I would have, clear as memory can make it – even down to the particular boy or the particular dream job I thought would fulfill me, I had to laugh a little. Genuine laughter coming out of my mouth before my kids woke up.
At that moment, in my bed, under the gray crumpled comforter, lay myself and two boys who must have made their entrances in the middle of the night. A gargantuan dog lying in such a comical position with his legs high in the air and a calico cat settled quite contentedly directly on my stomach. The morning sun was creeping in and the light was lovely.
I think it’s safe to say that for all of my dreaming, for all of my imaginings, for all of my big plans and alone thoughts, my life looks absolutely nothing like I imagined it would.
And this is not a complaint. Goodness, if some of those dreams had come true I’d be a city girl with no children and no connection to the earth or dirt or real food.
It’s funny what we think we want.
And how, as grown ups and as regular people, we have to shape our dreams around what actually is, instead of what could be.
Which is not to say imagination is wrong or wasted.
I loved those long afternoons of cutting grass and thinking big.
I still love moments of escape where I am engaged in a mindless but productive task and I can redecorate my house in my mind, envision a family gathering a decade from now, imagine a world where certain situations work out perfectly and my life can look a little more like a Hallmark movie and a little less like a reality show.
But I’m old enough now to know that, for all my daydreaming and big ideas, the present is really where it’s at and mostly where I want to reside.