On Love by Alain de Botton


To detect charm in out-of-the-way places is to refuse to be bewitched by the obvious.

Yesterday was the first day of school and, dear lord, I wish I could mention the crisp autumn breeze and the chilly September dew and the steam rising invitingly off my morning coffee, but it’s 90 degrees in our wee Northern town. We’ve gone all New Orleans, and anyway, I’ve given up coffee.

Amendment. I’m trying to give up coffee. Actually, I’m trying to give up the accompanying cream and sugar.

But, despite the heat, the year is surging forward at its usual glacial-then-landslide pace and I am making Christmas lists in my spare time. And wondering where all the snow pants were stored last June. I’m sure I washed them and packed them away in airtight containers and stacked those containers in a reasonable closet, or perhaps the basement, or perhaps the attic, but… I can’t recall which closet or basement or attic. As if we have so many. I mean, I’m pretty sure I washed and packed them. That sounds like something I’d do, right? Right?!

I know. That sounds nothing like me. I’m sure the snow pants are actually still hanging in the mudroom, caked with dried mud and whatever slush leaves behind when it evaporates. I suck at this whole yearly clothing routine. And the children are not much help. They don’t notice what they’re wearing until frostbite or heat stroke sets in.

But yesterday was the first day of school and that means all the pencils are whole, the markers have caps, the folders are unbent, and our will is resolute. I am committed to maintaining a routine. A morning routine, an after-school routine, an evening routine. By golly, we are going to organize this year to within an inch of its life.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t speak such blasphemy. We all know that three weeks in we’re going to be lucky to be in bed by ten (even the seven-year-old) and those busy mornings during which we have to be in four different places at the same time are going to find us in one place, on the couch in front of the TV. Watching, of course, intensely inappropriate programming.

We do our best.

This past weekend I got to see dear people I haven’t seen in a long, long time. And I got to see the ocean and eat fried scallops, but it was hanging with these four women that made the weekend great. There is such value in talking to people who knew you as a gap-toothed five-year-old, an awkward 12-year-old, a smelling-of-horses 15-year-old. There is value in listening to stories, laughing at stories, grimacing at stories, stories that are exchanged through a medium of love and deep appreciation that we landed in this spot at this time, however brief.

We do our best to notice our time together as the precious thing it is. And I’ll do my best to find those damn snow pants as our days grow shorter and whisper of the end of the year, even as the heat melts our bones and makes our faces shiny.

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