“If I had to choose one moment
To live within my heart,
It would be that tender moment
Recalling how we started.
Darling, it would be when you smiled at me,
That way, that Sunday, that summer.”
--Nat King Cole
Written by: George David Weiss and Joe Sherman
Release date: June 6, 1963
If you had to choose one moment to live within your heart forever as the most ideal, classic moment, which would you choose?
We all are familiar with defining moments. We’ve seen Fonzie give America a two-thumbs-up gesture. We’ve seen Michael Jordan fly through the air to dunk a basketball. We saw Michael Jackson hit his defining moment at the Grammy Awards when he danced to “Billie Jean” and put the whole pop world on notice. We watched Dan Quayle at the debate podium freeze in the headlights at the behest of Senator Lloyd Bensten, and Walter Cronkite mist up twice--once when man reached the moon and once when President Kennedy reached beyond it. President Nixon told us he was not a crook, although what he had done was illegal, and recently Barney Frank told us Fannie Mae was a solid investment going forward, although it collapsed days later. Tiny Tim “tiptoed through the tulips” while Johnny Carson mugged for the camera, and President Clinton set new marks in creative denial when he told us he “did not inhale” nor did he have “sex with that woman.” We’ve seen a ball bounce off the head of Jose Canseco and sat in awe as O.J. Simpson’s best friend drove him for miles with a disguise, a bag of money and half the highway patrol behind them. Bogey told us what constitutes the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and one-time actor-turned-politician Ronald Reagan became the man to tell Russian leaders to “tear down this wall” and finish Communism for good. Clark Gable reminded men how to treat women that use them when he told his soon-to-be-ex, Scarlet, he didn’t “give a damn,” and an unknown peace-lover came forward in Tiananmen Square in China to challenge an oncoming tank in an act of global imagery.
Yes, we know defining moments. But I’m asking you to go deeper than that, to reveal that inner self that recalls a moment or two of absolute significance in what may seem an otherwise routine life.
· Was it your child’s birth?
· Perhaps it was the look (fear) in your spouse’s eyes on the day of your wedding.
· The absolute thrill your new puppy expressed when you chose him over all the others?
· Maybe it is a negative moment that you find yourself dwelling on. The day the court said the divorce was final, the day you learned one of your parents had passed on, the moment the other car collided with yours, etc.
There are so many choices, so many moments. Such a short time on earth.
I love pizza. Any day, any time, pizza sounds like a great idea to me. I like it well-done and firm, light on the sauce and very cheesy. When I bite into that concoction, I am so satisfied, so fulfilled. I love that moment. My wife’s homemade crust is the best; simply the best. It’s not THE greatest moment I carry in my heart, but it has a place.
I love a warm shower at the end of the day--washing away the accumulated grime and troubles of the day, letting it all go down the drain. My father-in-law, who lived a challenging childhood in Italy and France, still says a prayer every time he steps into the shower, thanking God for hot water and life in America.
When my kids are talking among themselves and making each other laugh, it is a musical sound for me. To know they get along so well, enjoy each other’s company so much, are there for each other through anything--it really validates all the years of work when their mother and I were hammering out the childhood kinks and fashioning them into people. I love those moments.
I love arriving at work in the wee hours of the morning before anyone else, and pouring a cup of coffee, reviewing the day’s agenda, and deciding how to attack the tasks before me. It makes me feel like I am contributing something--not only to the company--but to the public that uses our facilities, products and public lands. Martin Luther King once said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” I like that thought. It generates a sense of purpose.
Celestial Navigation, a recording/performance group, reads poetry and stories along with the music. Some of it is quite moving. I like a selection called “The Back Porch.” In it, a woman asks her husband, “What’s the most pleasurable moment you’ve ever had?” He thinks of everything from the first time his brother smiled after returning home from Vietnam to closing a deal for five times what he expected to make on it. But, as he contemplates it all, he finally turns to her and says, “Of all the pleasurable moments I’ve had, I have to say that the best one was the next one.” Lord, I dream of one day saying one sentence with that much clarity and perfection. Just perfect.
Oh, The Choices
Recently, the local radio station noted the results of a poll asking men what they would choose as a career if they were guaranteed success. The top answer was overwhelmingly (almost half of all respondents) “professional athlete,” followed closely by “film actor” and, of course, embarrassingly for my knuckle-dragging brethren, “porn star.” Those were the new categories (all short-term careers with lots of fame and adulation) that replaced responses from a 1960s survey: president, astronaut and doctor (with an emphasis on accomplishing something for the greater good). Are we, as a nation, reaping what we’ve sown? What do you think would be the favorite/precious moments for a nation that has come to find momentary popularity and pleasure to be the brass ring of a quality life? Chugging a 6-pack at the dorm faster than anyone? Accumulating a vast number of bedroom partners before getting married? Knocking some guy out with one punch?
It isn’t what we’ve come to be, but what we have come to allow and therefore expect. And that is, in a word, the least: the most fame with the least effort, the biggest check with the least amount of work, like a lottery win or a large insurance payoff. There is nothing that includes integrity.
When The Elements Align
One summer Saturday when I was in my mid-twenties, I awoke to find a perfect day in my hometown of Berea, Ohio. The sun was shining, but the air was still cool. I was “renting” (paying the utilities and cutting the grass) an efficiency cottage behind my parent’s home. Across the street, some guys were decorating cars for our neighbor’s daughter’s wedding that afternoon. They waved me over. We drank some coffee, joked with the soon-to-be groom, and finished the cars. Mowers roared across the neighborhood as they always did on Saturday, and when everyone arrived at the wedding, they all had a sun-kissed glow from the small-town outdoor work of the morning. The groom was a nervous wreck, but his bride twice gave him a smile during the ceremony that quieted his jitters. The reception was immediately afterward, and there wasn’t a person there we didn’t know. My older sister was newly married, and she and her husband sat with my parents and my younger sister and me. It was just the six of us, simply enjoying a great meal on a beautiful day, surrounded by family and friends. The band played late into the evening, and I danced with my mother, my sisters and all the mothers and sisters of the neighborhood. My dad danced with his wife and his daughters, and had an ear-to-ear grin on his face the whole evening. Our Mayberryesque town’s ways were encapsulated in that evening for me. All of the neighborhood’s characters were alive and kicking. My dad was still on earth, and he and mom--by their presence alone--made a bold statement as an enduring couple. My sister loved her new married life. My younger sister was knocking them dead at college, and I was beginning to carve out a good career, finding my feet as a young man. The bride’s father gave the band a few more bucks, and they played an extra hour. No one wanted to go home. I hold that precious, simple day in my heart forever. I received no award or applause that day. I didn’t catch the winning touchdown pass or meet the girl of my dreams. I simply lived, smiled, worked, and played, all in the same day.
Were those lofty goals? I think not.
Was there complete satisfaction? Absolutely.
A moment to live within my heart.
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org