Everyday at work, a three-year-old looks very hard at my face. Then he leans back and squeals with delighted surprise, “Your eyes are still brown today!”
I’ve taken on nannying two wonderful kiddos for the year, leading to this particular daily revelation. I used to absolutely delight in my eyes, too. They were my favorite feature, one of the few things I continued to like about my body even through my deepest struggles with how I saw myself. They’re big and brown like my mom’s, one of the many things I am thankful she’s given me. (Pro tip: do not actually say this to the adorable three-year-old. He will become very confused and concerned and envision something more like a Wes Craven movie than a cute little expression: “But, how can you give someone eyes if they’re on your face?” Instead explain that they are like your mother’s eyes, not your mother’s actual eyes, and everyone will feel much more at ease). In junior high I developed a small crush on a boy, you know, the kind you get from one of those many trips that involve sticking a bunch of teenagers who don’t know each other together for a week for some mission trip or enriching learning experience and inevitably lead them all to become best friends and fall in love with each other for at least the rest of the week when they go home and never see each other again. Anyway, a couple of days into the trip this cute semi-stranger turned around in his bus seat and told me, ” Your eyes are really pretty. Like, they’re brown, but a pretty brown. Like, brown isn’t really a pretty color, you know, but your eyes are a good brown.” Sheer poetry. As a junior high girl I looked deep into the heart of that awkward compli-sult and pulled out pure compliment: I had pretty brown eyes, and mine must have been special, because apparently it’s not a look everyone can pull off. What’s-his-name had hit on my favorite thing about myself and affirmed that someone else–and a cute someone else at that– appreciated it as much as I did. After that, as I got into the years where makeup became a regular part of my daily getting-ready ritual, I started paying special attention to those just-the-right-brown eyes every morning. To this day I still make sure to wear mascara even if I don’t have time to put anything else on my face.
I don’t know exactly when that quick, simple gesture became just part of the routine that I pass over mindlessly like all the rest of it. Short of getting all dolled up for a special occasion, I mainly use the mirror as a last minute spot check to make sure everything looks reasonably presentable than as a vanity to admire myself, which is maybe a good thing to an extent. In checking the mirror to make sure I hadn’t accidentally smudged any black mascara up around my eyebrows, I didn’t stop to appreciate my eyes themselves again until I was reminded of them by an expectant toddler, eager to see if they had turned blue like his since he’d last seen me or if they had stayed their own true brown.
It’s so easy to take for granted the good things we see everyday in ourselves, our lives, and our people. Of course my eyes are brown–that’s not news. Of course the man I love is kind and generous, that’s just his personality. Of course she is a loyal friend and I can always count on her, that’s the kind of relationship we have. Obviously I can get in my car and go where I need to and wear what I want to and worship where and how and who I want. This is just how things are in my world, and it’s been that way so long that I’ve stopped noticing what incredible gifts these simple realities are. We trust a thing like that so much that it becomes a given, a part of our life’s landscape that is as immovable and eventually as invisible to us as the mountains in the distance. We’re often quick to recognize beauty in a new place where the scenery is different, but the beauties of our own backyards are easier to ignore. It’s why I have dozens and dozens of pictures from one weekend visit to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala but only a handful of shots of any of the neighborhoods I’ve lived in over the last few years. They don’t change so they seem unremarkable– that is, not worthy of a remark of gratitude or praise or adoration anymore. Unless of course, you haven’t yet lost the joy of things you can count on, like brown eyes and a regular nap time.
It makes me want to find joy in the predictability of my own life each day– in the food I have enough of, the friends who are always up for a hang out or a heart-to-heart, the boyfriend who loves me and consistently surprises me with little happies just because, the parents who are always there when I need them. These things are to be expected, unchanging like the mountains, but they are to be admired anew every morning too, appreciated for the beauty of their consistency, adored for the very reliability that sometimes makes them easy to pass over in my list of things to be thankful for out loud. So thank you! Thank you, Lord, and thank you, my people, for being who you are, every day and for giving me things I can count on.
May we gasp with excitement and joy each time we see each other: “Oh how wonderful! You are still you today!”