By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
My son started pre-school this week.
Before he went in for his second day, he replaced the treasure he keeps inside the hidden compartment in the plastic cat toy he’s most recently fixated on. He took out the bit of gilded plastic pirate treasure he took to school with him the day before, and replaced it with a bright green rubber bouncy ball. Then he handed me the coin and told me to keep it safe for him. I told him “okay,” and absent mindedly slid it into my back pocket. I went on to my office space where I settled in, drank some coffee, and began setting up a new monitor. During the course of setting up the space, though, it became apparent that I was going to need a surge suppressor and power strip, or risk regularly tripping over random power cords. Having skipped breakfast, I also needed some sort of snack to settle my grumbling stomach until lunch. So, two dollar stores later – the first one didn’t have any power strips – I found myself reaching into my back pocket to stow the receipt when my fingertips brushed something round and firm. A quarter? I didn’t remember putting any change in my back pocket since getting dressed, and these pants came directly out of the dryer this morning. (After I spilled coffee all over the first pair while trying to settle too many items at once into my passenger seat.) Then it hit me what it was. And, the memory of his tiny voice ringing in my ears, I felt myself smile for the first time since I started working that day. I know it was the first time I’d smiled since telling him goodbye, because I could feel the difference in my face. I could feel the lightness in my cheeks and the release in the corners of my eyes. It isn’t that the work I was doing was joyless. On the contrary, I quite enjoy technology and setting up new gadgets – and I was excited to have another quiet place to write when I need it. But that coin in my pocket, and the voice and face they conjured in my mind’s eye, gave me true joy. They were also a reminder, in that moment, that we work to live, not the other way around. And, of course, that little guy and his brother are also the reason his mother and I work so hard. So they don’t have to face the same worries and concerns too many other children do. It’s a balancing act – weighing the need to provide with making sure you take the time to enjoy what you’re providing. Taking care of him, though, will always be the greatest joy in my life. Being entrusted with the care of his treasures, always the greatest honor. Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org