Few things are more wonderful than easing into wakefulness from the heart of a just because nap, an honest to goodness close your eyes and drift off if you want to, nap. No bells or alarms jolting you into the present moment where you must hurry because you’re already five items behind on your to do list. I’ve just had the bliss of one on this perfect September Sunday. Jack is still heavy across my ankles, his favorite way to sleep. The dogs are still dreaming. It’s easiest for me to write when they are as still as a breezeless pond. Even that is deceptive. They are only recharging for their next round of mayhem!
Have you ever experienced a juice box? Yes, I’m talking about that small handheld invention – a box filled with juice in varying flavors accessible by a straw of matching size and cuteness. Deceptive. If you’ve ever gone round with one you’ll know why I call it an “experience”. If you haven’t, I urge you to go forth and find one immediately if not sooner. It’s something you’ll never forget. You must find out for yourself. It may in fact change your whole life. Well, perhaps that’s a tad overstated. But, you never know.
And if you think that one juice box is a wimpy experience, that you’re ready for so much more…or…you’re simply embarrassed to partake of a juice box as a great big grown up all alone….well, then I recommend that you make your way to the nearest preschool and enjoy your life changing experience with a dozen 3-5 year olds. I dare you.
Ok, ready? Here goes. A juice box is a tiny little thing, rather cute. Innocent and adorable it waits for you to come closer. They actually come in a variety of shapes but for our purposes we will focus on the box. Pick it up. Turn it over in your hand. Wow, pretty sturdy. And how good of them to include such a tiny matching straw. hmmm. Here’s where you come upon your first challenge, to ease the straw protected by its own plastic sleeve away from the box. Warning, if you mess this up you do not win the straw. In fact it will crimp in the middle and you’ll end up fighting for every drop of juice through a mangled straw.
Assuming you tear it successfully away from the box you now face your next challenge. You must free the straw from its protective sleeve that I’m pretty sure was designed by NASA to withstand the fires of re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. In the tackling of this step, do not – I repeat – do not – do anything to flatten the pointy end of “cute little straw”. Not so cute anymore, huh. You’re going to need that pointy end to stab through the miniscule foil covering – also designed by NASA.
So, straw meets foil. If you’re too gentle your juice will never see the light of day. If you’re too exuberant it will explode in your hand like some sort of mini volcano. (Have you ever noticed how the word mini makes everything sound that much cuter. Seriously. Try it while you’re enjoying your juice.)
Even if you’ve made it this far things can still go miserably wrong. You see, you have to hold it right. Yep, there’s a right way to hold the cutie pie. Side to side at the edges is best. If you grip it in the middle the whole thing can easily turn into a fountain. Juice will be everywhere that you don’t want it and sadly missing from the one place you do want it, namely your tummy.
Lest I have scared you off I assure you they are totally worth the effort. The juice is fantastic once you finally get to it. You are allowed to make a satisfying slurping noise when you reach the bottom. Some boxes will even cave in and change shape as you drain them becoming an artistic sculpture worthy of being displayed at any reputable museum of modern art. What’s not to love about that?
Juice boxes are a fine science and to be honest I’m not certain how preschoolers stay hydrated in the face of such adversity.
Since we’re already in preschool let’s talk about glitter! With your trusty juice box by your side all you need now is paper, glue, and glitter for some good old fashioned fun. A clean piece of white paper layed on a sturdy surface, (not your grandmother’s mahogany table). Take the bottle of Elmer’s glue and swirl to your hearts content. This way and that with no rhyme or reason. Add…Glitter! Shake it from the bottle. Pour it from a spoon. Sprinkle it with your fingers. Just keep going until your paper has disappeared under the weighty beauty of the sparkly bits. Gently lift at the corners letting all the excess fall away leaving behind only what held firm to the glue. There! Beautiful! And would you look at that, there we are again – the art of letting go leaving behind nothing but joy. One day we’ll learn. Maybe.
Glitter sticks! It sticks in the carpet, to your hands, furniture, face, you name it. It makes its way absolutely everywhere and doesn’t give up easily. I know people who cringe at the sight of it. Oh no, that crafty art project will have to stay behind. I’ll never get rid of all that glitter. My question is, why would you want to. It’s so much fun. Still, for many it is left behind out of fear and the desire for perfection. Perfect carpet. Perfect furniture. Perfect life.
But life in all of its ups and downs is a profoundly messy thing. Dirt falling from paws and the shedding of fur is as messy as glitter but I will never trade the joy of it for a perfect floor.
Jack is my September puppy. My juice box. My glitter.
Three years ago Jack gazed at me with those warm brown eyes. I gathered him up. He didn’t squirm to get loose. He didn’t try to chew on me. He gently nuzzled into my neck as though he was home and had belonged there all along. He hardly moved at all, happy to just be in my arms, as though he could finally rest. Jack is mine. Or rather, I am his. He chose me as surely as a preschooler chooses their favorite flavor of juice. I was helpless to resist. Such perfect precious innocence…
Um, no. Precious, maybe. Perfect and innocent? No way. Jack is the mess that sticks without glue. How often do I shake my head and sigh – oh, jack.
Jack is the reason I get up so early to write. When he was a puppy he insisted with both voice and paw that I awaken early, as in 4:30 crazy early! I soon realized that he only wanted me to move to the den where he would settle in and return to sleep. What is that about?! Hmmm. As long as I was up anyway I might as well make the best of it and write in the quiet hours before dawn.
It is Jack who cornered the poor beaver. It is Jack who steals the toys. It is Jack who will dig a hole to the center of the earth’s core. It is Jack who knows all of the neighbors on a first name basis. It is Jack who whimpers in the hallway begging to be noticed. It is Jack who will do his best Paul Bunyan impression trying to carry an entire tree branch, even if it’s only for a few feet. It is Jack who sends Bo scurrying under the picnic table. It is Jack who actually does the yoga pose downward facing dog. It is Jack’s name that I call in the woods when I want all of my companions to come along. It is strange indeed how all of the dogs come bounding in response to his name. It gives me a hearty smile. It is Jack who can round up an entire herd of cows in under two minutes. That’s a real sight to see! It is Jack who is a little Casanova.
It is Jack who greets me with an actual cry of delight when I return home after an absence. Whether I’ve been away for 5 minutes or 5 hours makes no difference to him. He is overcome with joy that I am no longer invisible. It is Jack who finds things, things that I didn’t even know were lost… Jack is my life changing juice box. Jack is my brilliant little mess that sticks to every part of my life with the tenacity of glitter. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hidden in the heart of the messy places, the ones you least expect, there is where your joy is. Life is a complicated adventure. You cannot create one without a bit of bother and a touch of glue. I will never trade a glittery mess for picture perfect. It’s just not worth it. Life is short. Even when it’s long, it’s short. Too short to be afraid of a juice box . Too short not to take the glittery masterpiece home with you. Embrace the mess…and let go of the rest.