‘If I had a necklace made out of tiny suns, I’d only wear it at night when you could really see it. Sadly, I don’t have a necklace like that. The closest thing I have is a necklace made out of those glow in the dark stars you stick to bedroom ceilings. But I only wear that on special occasions, like bedtime.’
― Jarod Kintz
© 2009 Michaël Zgheib All Rights Reserved
I used to collect stickers, a very long time ago. I kept them safe in a box as I waited for an occasion special enough to use them. The pile outgrew the box, and I grew up and outgrew the stickers before that occasion came. So one day, I solemnly decided to bequeath the treasure to a little boy, a little prince I used to know.
I have lived through, and promptly forgotten, many an unmemorable day, but I distinctly remember that one. He opened the box, and within an hour, there were stickers all over the walls. And on chairs, tables, drawers, books. Closet, bedroom, front, and car doors. Bed posts and bed sheets, toes, socks, and shoes. Forearms, cheeks, noses, and knees. That special occasion I had spent years waiting for, he had decided was right now; he celebrated with hundreds of colorful animals, alphabet letters, hearts, flowers, and rainbows.
This happened seven years ago. The bright and beautiful stickers all got their place in the sun; he used up every last one. They could have remained in that box a long time, and he could have turned fourteen this week. Had he been one of those who saved life for later.
But he was not. He woke up early on Saturday mornings, attempted to make pancakes, perfected eating pancakes, invented treasure hunts, went on treasure hunts, listened to stories, wrote stories, dreamed of adventure, turned grocery trips into one, sang along to the radio, sang karaoke, sang in the shower, laughed easily, cried sincerely, befriended grownups, befriended dogs, wondered, marveled, gasped, clapped, loved. Used up every bit of life. Went through it all young.
'Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.'
The trouble with saving life for later, is that neither is guaranteed. Planes crash, bombs explode, guns go off, drones strike, brakes fail. Infections spread, mosquitoes bite, cancers grow. Even little princes one day go.
There is no reason to fear death; it is just the cost of life. The side effect we should be fearing is the loss of time. Insidiously, quietly, it catches us unaware as we watch the evening news:
A playground in Lahore, a market in Bamako. An airport in Brussels, a Paris café. Old men and young men, good men and bad, lovers, families, children on swings. We are such small, vulnerable creatures, and the universe is so vast. ‘The aggregate of our joy and suffering … on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.’ The dull weight of growing old.
Growing indifferent, tired, and jaded. Finding fewer reasons to cry and even fewer to laugh, while time peels stickers off our walls and turns wine to turpentine.
'Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.'
- Samuel Ullman, Youth
We could mourn the life we wasted, waiting for an occasion to live. Or we could do something different today.
We could wake up at six in the morning to bake warm lemon madeleines, then rush back to bed and eat them there. Uncork the dusty Bordeaux, the Brunello, the Saint Hilaire, the Prosecco, for the sake of hearing it pop. Pull out the old fashioned records and learn the words to every Abba song.
We could use the gold-rimmed stationery to invite all the neighbors, and all the neighborhood birds and dogs. Serve popcorn and M&Ms together, in the fine china bowls. Cover every surface - solid, mushy, smooth, hairy, alive or not - with stickers of animals, flowers, and rainbows. Wear our loveliest dresses, our reddest ribbons, our necklaces of glow in the dark stars.
Then we could celebrate Thursday. We could celebrate the little prince’s birthday. We could celebrate today.