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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, March 10, 2006


Tonight is our annual Elementary School Carnival hosted by our middle and high school students. The big kids are clowns and "barkers" and Keystone Cops putting people in jail. (I just got sprung a few minutes ago.) There’s cotton candy, face painting, balloons, a “Scary Maze”, dozens of games, a petting zoo, and on and on—you know…a Night on the Midway—a perfect way to end 3rd quarter and mark the very middle of the 2nd semester.

It’s fun to walk around and watch the youthful exuberance and the joy of the older students serving and entertaining the younger students—and... loving it! (As Maxwell Smart used to say.) Disney classics are playing in the background—a nice touch. I must confess that after a few hours, it all becomes a blur of happiness dampened only by the reality that we will soon have to clean up. It's been a hard week.

So just now I step into my office for a moment of quiet. The hubbub of the “midway” fades but for the Disney music which is still playing on the office PA. I sit down to my computer to see if there is some five-minute task I can "check off" before the weekend—and Wham! it hits me, that ache of joy thing I’ve talked about before…. It happened again—an unexpected sense of sadness right in the midst of countless causes for joy.

The last time this happened was December 2004—entirely different circumstances but the same overwhelming sensation. I didn’t know that Disney music would have the same effect on me, but I guess it does. I’m hopeless. I think it's because these melodies were the themes of our family life when my girls were little and those songs were new. When Aladdin, and Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast, et al were released, and all the older "classics" were re-released.

For years, those titles were all that drew us to the theater as a family. But their hold didn't stop there. Oh no, the same musical themes continued when the videos were released and played over and over on road trips and vacations in the family van. Then they were immortalized when we actually went to Disney World in 2001 and they were pumped at us from fake rocks and hollow trees and magical stage shows. I'm not talking about that "earworm" tune from the petite global ride I won't name; I'm talking about dozens of wonderful songs that were etched fondly in our psyche unaware. So like I said, I was sitting here in my office when the ache of joy hit me.

I don't think it was triggered by the music alone as much as by the stark contrast between the festivities outside my door and the solitude within, but perhaps most of all… by a "midway" feeling of a different sense, the realization that not long ago Julie and I were the young couple strolling around with the our little girls (like the many young families in the building tonight).

Now we are midway through life. Our girls don’t drag us by the hands anymore. The oldest is a junior in college and out on a date; the middle one is a senior running a booth down the hall; and the fifth-grader is enjoying the carnival with her best friend from another school (who’s spending the night when we’re done). Yes, I have a hundred reasons to be happy...and I am... very.

In case you’ve never delved into the archives of this blog (who could blame you?) here is what I wrote when I first tried to explain this feeling 15 months ago:

"I felt strangely alone as I drove. A light snow was falling and the radio was playing Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” That’s one of those goose-bump songs that sums up the way students and teachers feel in those busy days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.... I thought back to all the Christmas programs the girls have been in and....I started to sing along with the radio. [F]rom out of nowhere, my voice cracked with emotion and a sort of sadness swept over me.
'Where did that come from?' I wondered aloud.

It was the first of several unexpected pauses in the days to come when happy recollections would suddenly seem too wonderful to bear, and rather than a smile they brought the ache of joy: a fragile awareness that life is a collection of mostly uneventful moments. They do not pass but gather; they are not spent but shared; and only rarely do we begin to grasp their value—or allow ourselves to think they will someday change—and when we do, our grip goes numb, like in a dream, just when it matters most to hold on.

That’s what I mean by the ache of joy. It’s not a passing feeling but the passing ability to sense what’s always there, the simplicity of life that is lost in the complexity of living. It catches us off guard because it’s stored not in our cherished memories but in moments that have passed forgotten. Out of nowhere it comes, this ache of joy, but briefly seeing life this clearly blurs the eyes...." (From post of January 11, 2005)

Yes, that must be it... Good night from the midway.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I was at that carnival! It was sooo fun! Thanks for having the carnival. P.S That was my CD playing!!!! Hahaha!!!

12/3/06 8:25 PM  

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