Amos had a lot to do at the zoo, but he always made time to visit his good friends. (from A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead)
First of all, this Caldecott Medal winning book is gorgeous. The illustrations by Erin E. Stead are beautiful and the story is sweet, calming, and fun. It feels like a vintage children’s book in the best way but was published in 2011. Absolutely charming.
My friend, Christy, gave this book to our children last week and Benjamin has wanted to read it at least once a day since then, which is fine with me. I am the coordinator of a local chapter of Mother’s Of Preschoolers (MOPS) and every year we are given a theme book to base our MOPS year on. This year’s theme book is called Mom Connection by Tracey Bianchi and I really enjoyed reading it while I was in the hospital recovering from the birth of my daughter last month. One of the challenges in the book that caught my attention was to be intentional about creating the environment you want for your family. She asks the question, “What do you want your family to be famous for?” I thought about it a lot and Jon and I talked about what we would want to be “our thing,” the thing people would know us for. I have a friend whose family I always think of as creative and crafty because every time I talk to her or look at her facebook profile they are making something fun together. Another friend’s family I think of as athletic and outdoorsy, always getting out into nature together and staying fit.
My friend’s timing in giving A Sick Day for Amos McGee to my children is astonishing to me because I had been thinking so much about what we wanted to be known for and decided that we wanted to be the family that always makes time for our friends. We don’t want to be always waiting for a more convenient season to go away for the weekend with good friends or waiting until we know we can get the house clean before we invite someone new over. We don’t want to ignore a phone call from an out of town friend because we’re in the middle of some mess or another. We want to be the ones that say, “Hey, the house is a wreck, but come on over. If you can step over the toys and make your way to the kitchen I’ll make us some tea.” We were in Ft. Worth in the fall for a friend’s wedding and the temptation was to hurry home afterward, pick up our son, unpack our bags and get ready for the week ahead. Instead, we called other friends that live in Ft. Worth and stayed long enough to enjoy a long lunch with them before we made the drive home. It was so much better that way. I haven’t taken our daughter to church yet (too many germs for a newborn there!) so I put her in the Moby wrap last week and went to a movie while my husband and son were at church. Other than my infant daughter, I was the youngest person in the theater and I enjoyed watching elderly ladies and gentlemen come in with their friends and laugh and comment together at the parts they enjoyed. I want to maintain my friendships in such a way that we can enjoy catching a movie together when we’re in our eighties and talk about the ones we saw together in our twenties and thirties. After church, my husband thought he might go home and work in the yard a bit. Instead, he stayed around my parents’ house to watch Duck Dynasty with my dad. Then our good friend came over and we spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and catching up. Before we knew it, we were late for dinner with some other good friends. We were supposed to bring vegetables and had nothing prepared. Instead of wasting more time away from our friends, we just grabbed some zucchini and squash out of the fridge, our favorite infused olive oil, and some cheese and just showed up at their house with unprepared food. They didn’t mind. They are our friends. My husband didn’t get anything done in the yard that day, but the time invested in all of these relationships was so much more valuable.
Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking other things are more important. We have a small and crowded house with a kitchen table that only seats four. So sometimes I am reluctant to have more than a few people over at a time because I am self-conscious about asking people to eat in their laps! But the times I have gotten over it and just invited people to crowd on in have been some of my favorite memories in this house. I have to remind myself of that and just open the handprint smudged door wide.
Like Amos McGee, we have a lot to do in this zoo we call our lives, but our family has decided to be intentional about making time for our friends.