Describe a happy memory, a positive experience you shared with your loved one. Write down what you were doing and where you were. Add details about the time period, what you said, what you were wearing, the weather, who else was there—anything you can remember in order to paint a clearer picture for yourself.
Read through it and lose yourself in the contentment of that past moment. Go back to the top of the page. Write the words, “I am grateful for…” above your paragraph.
I’m thinking about a memory from about 12 years ago, a pleasant autumn evening where it was still warm enough to go out in a sweatshirt or even a t-shirt. It was late; past evening, really. Maybe even close to or a little bit past bedtime.
I was divorced and living in a little house in a suburban area. Since my first husband and I had lived in a very rural area, my kids considered this new place to be “the city.” They were scandalized by nearby neighbors, constant cars on the busy road at the end of my little street, sidewalks, traffic lights, and the proximity of everyday commerce.
These features (except for the neighbors and the cars) were also what my kids loved about my house. There was something exceptionally cool about being able to stroll down the street to Burger King. My daughter loved to walk to the pet store with her friends (and I still have the cute kitten they brought home.) My son was obsessed with “street skating.”
I don’t know what the definition of street skating is for most people, but for my son, it meant riding your skateboard through parking lots, on the sidewalk, and down steps (if you were feeling brave.) Street skating is simply impossible when you live on a dirt road in a rural area; it was a whole new experience for Matt—revolutionary, even.
Since you must be careful of cars, street skating is best done at night, when the stores are closed—which makes it EVEN COOLER. The “city” where I lived was completely shut down by 9pm—we weren’t skulking around at midnight. In the mind of a 9-year-old boy, however, we were doing just that.
On the weekends (and sometimes on a weeknight, so avant-garde!) we would clip the leash to our Corgi and set out on a skateboarding adventure. Sometimes Matt’s sister would come along; sometimes she preferred a little solitude, blinds firmly shut against the neighbors, typing rapidly on her bright red Samsung with the slide out keyboard. (Could our family have BEEN any cooler??)
Matt and Sarah and I would stroll and roll down the dead end, which backed up to a parking lot. He could get up some speed and sometimes hop right up onto the sidewalk of the shoe store. There would be five or six attempts to jump off the other end of that sidewalk, which was taller since the store was on a slope. Polite applause from me and Buster when he managed to stick the landing; even grudging approval from Sarah, who was often loitering on the low wall separating the shoe store from the car wash, reading a book.
We’d continue on behind the bank, then carry the skateboard along the path up a grassy bank to the grocery store. Our route took us behind the grocery store, past the loading docks, and a bump up onto a new sidewalk. It was hard work to propel yourself along that sidewalk, uphill. Protective gear required.
At the top of that hill was the Everest of street skating. A small plaza with 4 or 5 stores with a sidewalk out front. Built into a hill, the stores stepped down from one another—and so did the sidewalk. As you worked your way down the sidewalk, the number of steps increased, until the heart-stopping final level—three steps.
Buster and Sarah and I stood out there for hours, night after night, while Matt worked up his nerve to skateboard down those steps. Some nights he would just do the one-step level, over and over. Some nights he would try a few levels, leaping off the board at the last minute to avoid crashing. Some nights he would skip the steps altogether and be content to cruise around the parking lot.
But that one night, the night I’m remembering, the night that stands out in my brain, it's me and Matt and our dog. The air is warm with the remnants of summer, but the sky is hinting at winter darkness. There's a quiet hum of infrequent cars and the faint scent Burger King’s flame broiling in the background. The evening hush is broken only by the whir of rolling skateboard wheels and the clatter of an abandoned board smacking the wall; a few times the satisfying clack of a boy on a skateboard jumping from one step to the next without falling off.
And then it happens! Matt has made his way to the top of the sidewalk, and is standing there with a resolute expression on his face, staring down at that menacing 3-step section. He is a warrior, a conqueror. My eyes widen.
“You’re doing the whole thing?” My voice is a little squeaky.
“Yup.” A simple word, a short word, but it conveys enough 9-year-old boy swagger to fill an encyclopedia.
I hold my breath as he pushes off; Buster sits at my feet, alert and on guard. Whirrrrr CLACK! One step, stuck the landing, DIDN’T STOP. Whirrrrr CLACK! On to the next store, he's still rolling! Picking up speed. (I pat my pockets for tissues or band-aids for first aid.)
Whirrrr CLACK! CLACK! Two steps, not even a wobble, still rolling, and my heart is in my throat because the 3-step level is next, and HAS HE WORKED OUT WHAT TO DO AT THE END OF THE SIDEWALK??
Whirrrr CLACK! CLACK! whirrrr CLACK!!! He makes it down all three steps, and he's still upright, still rolling!
I'm jumping up and down, cheering at the top of my lungs. Even the dog is excited.
Matt bails off the skateboard right as the sidewalk ends, and the board careens into the landscaping at the edge of the parking lot. The momentum causes him to take a few giant steps forward, then he turns to me, grinning, throwing his arms out wide, classic victory pose.
And yes, I’m so grateful for every moment I spent with that boy.