I don’t know, perhaps I’ve become lazy. Perhaps the old lady that’s been scratching just beneath the surface since my 25th birthday has finally taught me a lesson in simplicity, but I think I’ve found the key to essentialism.
Really it’s just that I’ve come to understand a thing that elicits the feeling of contentment. It’s the Saturday afternoon river valley walks. Part nature, part bearing witness to Jack’s discoveries. A rock here, an extra long piece of grass there, a raisin…
‘don’t put that in your mouth’.
And to sound less like a beatnik, part coffee. Although, I’m sure even a beatnik could not resist a good brew.
High school me would have named the essentials as a licence, no curfew and a boyfriend. All of which came to me, none of which were quite as essential to my contentment as I’d thought.
I think 5 year old me got it though. Give her a nap, a snack and a bike ride with Mom to meet up with Dad after work. A 5 year olds essentials. Rest, food, people.
It’s very millennial of us in a way, but Matt and I have this cafe, Leva, that we’ve frequented for the last 3 years or so. It wasn’t really for the coffee or the food, though both of those things are favourable. At first it was the location, close to the University, close to the river, but it sits right on the corner of this old residential neighbourhood with its tree lined streets and rickety, character homes. The first time I saw it was in the fall. The trees were shedding orange and red all over the place and you had to wade through the leaves to get to the door. It dazzled me.
These days we go for the nostalgia of it all. The smell of coffee, the Tiramisu, the familiar faces. (Although, there was a time when I ran into the doctor who broke my water during Jack’s birth. We did not acknowledge the other’s existence. Gotta watch out for those encounters.)
The floor to ceiling windows and the absence of upbeat hip music is what keeps me loyal. The music is comparable to what you’d experience in an elevator, or on the other end of the phone line, while you wait to complain about that piece of broken furniture they sent you. Oftentimes, it’s Jazz, which is a prerequisite for Matt.
I’m very much attached to it. To me the atmosphere is the piece de resistance of the Edmonton dining scene. An essential.
Anyways, back to family bonding. Because I’m a whiner, I must add the negative side to the situation. Well, it’s spring and I am very, very white. So allergies.
For those of you who don’t know the aching despair of spring allergies, let me delineate.
It’s like a minuscule porcupine has sprayed its tiny needles into your eyeballs and when you try to pull them out, they multiply until you’re blind. Also, all fluids in your body seem to have been replaced with snot. I swear if you pricked me on a day like today (as I type with a Kleenex shoved up one nostril) I would bleed mucus. Thank you Reactine for occasionally stopping the inside of my face from bursting into flames. Bothersome to say the least, catastrophic to say the most.
Anyhow, such was this beautiful family day. A day of bonding and snot. My sniffles did not go unnoticed at Leva where the beautiful people were sipping their coffees and giving me mad side eye.
But you know what, I was nearly unbothered. I was much too wrapped up in the elevator music, and tiny sneakers, and adultish conversation with Matt to pay much attention to my burning retinas or the side eyers.
Jack was throwing mostly everything on the floor and screeching with glee every time he saw a human within earshot. He does this. “Hi…..hi!….HIIIIIIIIIII!!!!’ Until he is noticed. Sometimes it’s met with a strangers friendly chuckle and the “oh how cute.” Other times it’s met with the same side eye as my sniffles.
I don’t pay much attention to those side eyers, I no longer can identify with their aversion to child noise. I’m always relieved to meet a parent with a fellow shrieking toddler. We get it. I feel we are bosom friends. Bosoms. I wish we still called them that.
What I’m trying to say here is that I get you Lennon and McCartney. You were right. All you need is love.
I’ve imagined this life of essentials, the dream house, jobs that pay us enough to never have to worry about saying no, a car or two, a babe or two, a dog, smaller thighs, longer hair, moisturized cuticles. I always assume these things will bring, not total contentment, but a kind of happy that could make the unhappy times seem alright.
But eliminate the consumerism and purge the indulgence and you can identify what the essentials truly are.
They’re the Saturdays, with the rocks and the grass and the coffee and the happy shrieks and the tiny sneakers.
It’s really just time.
Time to enjoy your people.