Thursday, August 11, 2005

"Once Upon a Time" Surprises

Once upon a time, surprise was the currency of life.

When I was small, short, and shy, surprises were things of magic and mystery. They often came in boxes gift-wrapped with ribbons, or they involved a blindfold and a walk to something more exciting. The word itself, surprise, filled the mouth and the mind. It conjured thoughts of adventures and dreams coming true, and in my young world, surprises usually lived up to that reputation. It's not hard to make a 6-year-old's dreams come true.

Play is the work of six-year-olds. Surprise is the currency. Surprise was among the first words I heard, said, read, and wrote. I wasn't unusual. Parents and teachers know the power of surprises.

Surprise! Surprise? surprise

I type the word three ways and stare at it. The images, the memories change with how it is written. My feelings about surprises change with them. I think that I've discovered how to mark the time that I was still a child--when I thought all surprises were good. In a child's lexicon, all surprise is pleasing to the highest order. I look at the list and add one more item.

No surprises.

I survey the list again. I've recorded the evolution of my experience of surprises. As I grew taller, surprises grew smaller. As I got older, surprises became fewer and less enchanting. As I got wiser, surprises became the stuff of childhood. The surprises hadn't changed. I had.

My childish expectations were too grand for my grown-up dreams. I still have adventures and dreams, but they don't come in gift-wrapped boxes with ribbons. I chase them down. All of my happily ever afters are my own doing. So are my turns down the wrong road. Not every surprise is fun.

I still get sweet surprises, but surprise is no longer the currency of my life.

Now surprise is the wildflowers that grow alongside my road.

—me strauss Letting me be


Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that, while surprise is no longer the currency of life for an adult, it definitely has it's own pay-off. Surprises of any kind get me thinking bigger, noticing the road I'm on, and wondering about things. I think that something deep down inside of me thrives on surprise. So I keep expecting surprises. And I keep being surprised.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Someone else wrote me an email to say that surprise also holds a charm in adult life. I'm delighted that good surprises still make the world go around in their own little way.