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Daily Flair: Becoming an Umbrella

Flair opened early this morning on the dreary mile walk to school. It was drizzling (drizzle is the worst: it’s indecisive and taunting with its half rain / half fog constitution) and remarkably chilly for March.

I have a huge bright blue and white umbrella. I like to spin it and do a little Gene Kelly dance as soon as I open it. And then, I’m driven by pure instinct to invite anyone near me in, to stand close, cuddle up, and stay warm. With my arm around a child or my head pressed to a friend’s cheek, I feel like it is a sacred space. It feels like flair.

And it’s no wonder I feel this way. Nearly every culture recognizes the important role of umbrellas and the treasures they protect. The umbrella’s rich history reflects how communities use umbrellas to shield their most holy objects, to announce sacred ceremonies, and to signal the presence of royalty. In Egypt, the figures of gods are covered by umbrellas, in the Roman Catholic liturgy, the umbrella covers the Most Holy Sacrament, and in the ancient Chinese book of ceremonies, the umbrella always covered imperial carriages.

What sacred treasures, what dignitaries were underneath my umbrella? Was that child, picking a nose and stooping to fix a sock that had inched its way down her foot, a treasure? (OK, that was my daughter)

I imagine that the umbrella doesn’t discriminate. I imagine the honor the umbrella feels to partake in the ceremony of walking to school.

What if I acted more like an umbrella? Living with flair means I open my arms wide to point out and protect what is sacred and of supreme worth in everybody around me.

This morning it felt like I walked to school with royalty. And I did.

Living with flair means I am an umbrella today.

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Daily Flair: 5 Seashells, Almond Extract, and a Cat

Some things nearly qualified as flair today: using almond extract and skim milk (a new concoction)in a freshly ground cup of coffee, choosing to pet my cat (the one that purrs so hard she seems to choke) for a minute longer than I had time for, or finding my daughter’s seashell collection on the floor of my minivan.

Don’t worry; my minivan isn’t that dirty. The whole collection was maybe five shells. And yes, I held one to my ear and even smelled it, all while waiting for the Rite Aid pharmacist to hand me my receipt through the drive-up window.

But those things aren’t so out-of-the-ordinary.

What did count as flair today wasn’t an experience with an object (or a cat). It happened when thinking about my first five blog followers. Five followers, statistically speaking, represents an absurdly small number. Infinitesimal. Too small to note, unseen as far as Internet blips go. But to me, those five were enough.

I recalled an essay a student wrote last week (thanks, Patrick) about how we tend to value the massive as opposed to the microscopic. Even in our own lives, we value accumulation and not reduction (unless, of course, you’re in my Weight Watchers meeting).

Living with flair means I take note of the immense worth of the small, the few, and the unseen. I take note, then make an offering of words, to just one or a million. It shouldn’t matter. After all, the boundaries of the day are set for most of us. Perhaps all we can embellish is a cup of coffee or a moment with a little creature. And maybe nobody will know about it even if we did bother to blog about it.

I know most of us won’t travel to any exotic beaches today. We might just experience the art of the ocean from our minivan’s floor and tell just five friends. And that’s just fine. That’s flair.

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Daily Flair: Learning the “Beat It” Moves

This morning, my neighbor and I learned the choreography for Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” We had my laptop propped for maximum visibility and water glasses filled for potential dehydration. We adjusted our workout clothes so they wouldn’t inhibit our moves.

We learned the whole dance from a youtube video. This is no small thing.

I’m not sayin’ I can do it well, or in any way resembling MJ, but I did learn it.

Why did we do it? I have no idea. But it counts as my flair for the day.

Living with flair means I’m doing something a little ridiculous, a little “out there,” a little beyond what’s expected or appropriate every day. Something about dancing this morning reminded me that joy often lies dormant, waiting to be unearthed and brought forth. What made learning dance moves so joyful? What is it about the spontaneous, the supremely useless, and the silly that lets the joy in?

Whatever it was, I needed it.

Flair signals embellishment. I want to embellish the day; I want to celebrate it and set it in the right light. Doing my MJ moves (the thrusts, the snaps, the round kicks) made things shimmer this morning. But it really wasn’t, in terms of productivity or market value, useful.

But the day felt hopeful, not because I scrubbed a kitchen floor, but because I danced on it, hard, for no reason at all. And then I told all the neighbors about it.

Flair needs company. Dancing with my friend, banging into her when I mirrored the moves incorrectly, made us giggle like preschoolers. We weren’t talking about anything. We weren’t processing all the dysfunction in our lives or in the world. We were just trying to learn this dance. . . together. And we did it. We participated, somehow, in some larger dance: we are wives and mothers, aging and aching often both internally and externally, with enormous amounts to accomplish in any given day. Who has time to learn a dance from the 1980’s?

And yet, we danced. That was the perfect flair for the day.
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