Present | Paper Doll Tales

It’s 6:52 am and I watch the college student in orange parka and backpack walk to the fluorescent-lit corner bus stop and I watch the Pittsburgh Port Authority bus arrive with lights blazing like Santa’s sleigh.  The bus takes a breather, then hums forward, the rectangle of flat-white windows showing a comic-strip student’s progress down the aisle to the seat three from the end where he gives that practiced slump of shoulder that slides the backpack beside him.  The bus vanishes in the dark that cannot yet be called morning.

This is the present.  It glides in and out with seldom more than a hum to alert us to it passing.  It is beautiful in its still-life images of orange coat and black backpack and bus lights blazoning the darkness, and I miss it most every morning of my life.

Last night I had the first of many big heart-t0-heart bedtime conversations with Miss I.  It needed to be said that after three exhausting days of her picking on me, picking on her sister, I was tired, and I missed my sweet girl.  Turns out that my sweet girl has been turned bitter by Star Wars.

“Mom, Star Wars is the Thing now,” she says, laying emphasis on the Thing, by which I know to put Star Wars in the category of all the Things of my life: slap bracelets, spiral perms, Jansport backpacks, Keds sneakers, Ugg boots, Seven jeans, Sorel snow boots.

A Star Wars Club has been formed at recess at school.  All of the first grade girls belong.  All, except Miss I who has been spending her recess time with one other friend, playing board games in the gym.  Yesterday, that one remaining friend joined the Star Wars Club.

Miss I has never seen Star Wars.

“Mom, you have to like Star Wars, and I only know one character!  And you have to have a Star Wars thing on your backpack.  And you have to win Lucky Tray Day in the cafeteria 10 times.  And you have to have $100 in your bank account.”

I’m skeptical about this club’s rules of membership.  But we tackle the list.  We can watch Star Wars.  We can go shopping at any of a number of stores that may carry items of the Star Wars variety.  We can downplay the Lucky Tray Day lottery.  We can work dollar by dollar on that bank account.

“And next year, Second Grade doesn’t have a Star Wars Club.  They have a Shopkins club, and you have to have 75 Shopkins to join, and I don’t have that many, I don’t even know where most of mine are!”  It’s a run on sentence that trips over itself spilling from her mouth.

I thought we had enough trouble dealing with Star Wars.  How’d Shopkins get added to my worry list?

It jumped in there from tomorrow.

It trespassed on my present.

No different than my own worries about how to pay for tomorrow’s vacation or handle tomorrow’s test results or negotiate tomorrow’s packed schedule.

It is so hard to isolate myself in the present.  The present is as delicate as a bubble.  But in it’s moment of glory, the present can be a powerful bubble; in the moment’s blink it takes to watch an orange coat disappear in a white strip of bus, tomorrow’s Shopkins and schedules simply don’t have sway.  The present can be so complete, so beautiful, so encompassing, that if I am patient with myself and stop long enough to notice–really notice–the depth of darkness at 6:52 am, I am at peace.

I’ve got paralyzing mama grief and worry picturing Miss I alone at that recess board game, shoving first one car and then another car along the paths of Life (metaphor intended), spinning the dial over and over and over for consecutive turns.  I don’t know how to fix that present.  It’s not a pretty picture.  Life needs at least two players.

But I also know that the present doesn’t need tomorrow’s worry jumping in to play today’s game.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” said Jesus (Matt. 6:34), and if anyone I know has had troubles piling up and lurking in tomorrow, it’s Jesus.  Yet He felt no need to get a head start on worrying about them.  Today was enough to handle on its own.

I tell Miss I this insight in some sort of first-grade paraphrase, and I remind her of a little hand-motion poem we’ve learned in our Bible study–one word for each finger: “God is with me always.”

I say it and know that her head is still spinning with Lucky Trays and Shopkins and impoverished bank accounts, but the message gets through to me.  It’s about the present.  Where I am right now, God is (present tense) with me.  Two players at this game of life. I can go ahead and spin that dial and know wherever I land, I can pause in that present and appreciate it for the moment it is, not rush on to worry over the moment that must come.

As for today’s to-do list: I’ll admit I’ve given thought to collecting all those missing Shopkins from the dusty, forgotten corners of my house.  We’ve got a big Second-Grade goal to work toward.

This post is inspired by and shared with Five Minute Fridays, but in full disclosure, this is one post I couldn’t limit to just 5 minutes.  



  1. Karen Brown said:

    Beth- You grabbed me from the very beginning and pulled me deep into your words. This is beautiful. Your use of imagery made me imagine, think, and feel. Thank you for sharing this sweet story with your daughter and for bringing me back to my own powerful present. Great post.

    January 22, 2016
  2. I really enjoyed this, Beth and am so happy to find you through the FMF link-up. (the five minutes thing is really rough for me too, 😉
    AND, I just found your open letter to Disney post and YES, to all of that as well.

    January 22, 2016
  3. Nancy said:

    There will always be Star Wars and Shopkins. Not everyone is blessed enough to to have a Mom help the. Focus on the present with understanding and compassion. I hope Miss I appreciates it now. If she doesn’t she will.

    January 22, 2016
  4. Martha said:

    Tell Miss I is she ever has any questions about Star Wars that Mr W can give her the answer she needs and he would be glad to help out. At our house we were fortunate to be able to borrow all previous movies before so they could be watched before going to the present one. I never cared for them in the first place! :) They could even Facetime or whatever it is that Google does. :)

    January 22, 2016
  5. leah said:

    Dear Beth,
    My youngest is a first grader and so I can relate to your feelings.
    Such a wonderful post here…I loved your imagery and metaphors with being present.
    Your daughter’s confession left me so sad though! I can not fathom that kind of pressure and need to conform to be in the correct group…with financial responsibilities included for six and seven years old. Honestly, it seems very destructive. I am not criticizing, I always use comments to encourage. I just am shocked…all my children attend public school and I have never heard of such pressure till high school. Though, you seem to be a very connected mother and strong believer in Christ so I am sure His Presence will be with you giving you a firm knowing of what to do.
    Praying for you and you Miss I.
    Your distant neighbor at 5minfri {I loved the name of your blog so I clicked on it}

    January 22, 2016
  6. Jo said:

    Ann Voskamp calls it the “ache of wonderous now.” When we can actually breathe in the present, it is very powerful. How wonderful Miss I has you to teach her that now–in the present!

    January 22, 2016
  7. kathavd said:

    What a wonderful post, very engaging and thoughtful story! I definitely agree that we allow the worries of tomorrow to spoil our present. May we learn to enjoy the right here and now!

    January 22, 2016
  8. Boy, I remember these days. My daughter is 25 now, and I don’t think it was anywhere near as difficult as it is now for kiddos. Great post! Good luck…you’ll do fine. :-)

    ~#9 on FMF linkup

    January 23, 2016

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