My high school friend told me about this gift that she bought the other day at a card store: soap with currency hidden inside. She paid fifteen dollars apiece for these with the hopes that inside might lie a twenty or fifty, or maybe even a hundred dollar bill. Of course it could be much less than this, but she was willing to take the risk.
I think my friend bought these not for the chance to "win" although there is the lure of gambling here. What I believe she was buying was a little slice of anticipation. Waiting for something with hopeful imagining sure is fun, and we never outgrow it.
These soaps immediately reminded me of something long forgotten from my childhood. There were little soaps, called Fuzzy Wuzzies or something like that, because they were in animal shapes that actually took on a furry quality as you used them. And the best part, the best part, was that when you washed them away, you were left with a little surprise charm in your hands. These little darlings sure prompted a lot of hand washing back in those days -they were so much fun to use and the more I used them, the quicker I got to my prize. One time, it was a tiny dolly, or maybe a little heart charm. But there were booby prizes too, at least for me, like the time I washed and washed with my little blue bear only to find a plastic bullet in his tummy. Why would anyone want that, I wondered at the age of five. I wonder still. But it did not deter me from loving those soaps and eagerly receiving them. I used each bar with gusto.
So of course, the armchair philosopher that I am got to thinking about why we don't hold onto those wonderful feelings of expectation as we get older. Well, not why. I know why. It's because life beats us up along the way and we begin cowering and covering up to avoid the next slap. But, remember back to the days when your biggest worry (if you were fortunate enough to have a good childhood) was whether or not your best friend could come out and play? Or the biggest disappoint was a plastic bullet in your bear- shaped soap?
The trick to it all of course, now, is holding onto that sense of anticipation, knowing full well that sometimes you are going to get kicked, trampled and crushed by life. And that is a pretty tough task for any of us.
But we all know people who can do it. The cheerfully optimistic, who are so good at it that it is a way of life. They greet each day, palms open, ready to receive what is hidden in the day for them, with humor, grace and hopefulness; And maybe even stifled giggles and squirms - such is the degree of anticipation they hold for life. They are the lucky ones. So far, I can only muster those feelings in short spurts and usually they are directly related to present circumstances. But I am working on this. Oh yes I am. Because I want to greet each day with hope and gratitude, because well, isn't that the nice way to receive a present, and after all every day is a gift, isn't it?
When I was young and just married, I approached my everyday life like this. I was with the man/child that I loved. We had our whole lives to look forward to and all the possibilities that that entailed. A home, children, holidays, vacations, great meals and laughter and hugs all around. And life did bring me those things. Plenty of those things. And each day as I got up and washed my hands and did all the normal things we do, it became clearer that he wasn't quite what I had expected. But I kept my booby prize, because he was mine, and I built my life around him, he was my family and I had promised to love him forever. I didn't see the other crappy prize of betrayal that was still hidden, but it was in time revealed, as are all of life's surprises. But that was the chance I took by saying, " I do." Would I take that chance again with someone else? Probably not. At least not the way I feel right now.
But I am still going to take a chance on life. Because in cowering, you forget to look up and if you don't look up you might not see the good prizes; a day with your granddaughter, the admiration of your children, a new friend walking toward you...
So, life I guess is like those bars of treasure soap. You get the soap you choose and you get surprises hidden in there too. Some surprises are obviously very, very bad, way worse than a plastic bullet and some are so wonderful that we ask ourselves what we ever did to deserve such abundance. I think today, I might try to cower a little less; I have already been kicked around pretty good, although I am keenly aware how much worse it could get. Still, right this minute on this beautiful Sunday morning, I am going to open up these palms for my soapy, sudsy wonderful life. I am going to giggle, damn it, and maybe even squirm with the excitement and anticipation of it all. There is so much to be embraced and now that I am alone, there is one less obstacle in my way.