Because Life can only be lived a moment at a time.

Fringe Benefits

I told myself I shouldn't eat the cupcake.

Thanksgiving was approaching, and I knew I'd have to face a thousand edible temptations between that holiday and Christmas. And I also knew I'd wind up succumbing to at least a few of them. (Okay, maybe more than a few. But not most. Well, maybe somewhere between a few and most. But definitely not all.)

So I said no to the cupcake.

I was substituting in second grade that afternoon and the teacher across the hall, Mrs. M., had made Food Network-worthy chocolate cupcakes for a fellow teacher's birthday. When I declined the treat at lunch, Mrs. R., the birthday girl, insisted I take one. "But what if you fly up to heaven tomorrow?" she asked. "You will have missed out on a cupcake for no good reason."

I appreciated her logic, but I was resolute. No cupcake for me.

Mrs. M. said she would be in a meeting while all the second-graders were in Resource (P.E., Art, Music, or Library) but I was welcome to come in to her classroom and take a cupcake if I changed my mind.

I took advantage of the Resource time to look at my lesson plans for the rest of the afternoon and begin my note to the absent teacher about how things had gone. But I finished quickly and I was left with nothing to do but sit and think.

About the cupcakes behind the locked door across the hall.

And I gave in.

As soon as I lifted the lid of the cake carrier the rich, chocolaty scent took me back to every birthday cake Mama ever made for me. If I were a stronger person I would have been satisfied to breathe in that sweetness.

But I'm not.

I took the cupcake back to my classroom and ate it slowly, savoring the moist chocolate cake and the swirly buttery frosting. I've had those fancy cupcakes that folks stand in line for and this one was far superior. Although I did not fly up to heaven the next day I still don't regret consuming that treat. It was that good.

A few days later I spent the afternoon filling in for a P.E. teacher.  I was told that another P.E. teacher would be present, so I'd be on hand to help with crowd control. (And when you're working with 40 or so five- and six-year-olds at a time, crowd control is essential.)

A multicolored parachute was spread out on the gym floor---it looked like a rainbow had circled back on itself and fallen to Earth. After Ms. B. laid down the ground rules (such as no walking on or climbing under the parachute), the students took their places, two per colored wedge.

I shared a color with a young man who declined to participate. I can't remember why he was disgruntled, but his faux tears were plentiful. However, he inched forward once he decided that the cost of setting aside his anger was worth the benefit of making the parachute billow. Following Ms. B's instructions, we built from gentle waves to a tsunami.

Soon the cavernous space filled with laughter: The students', Ms. B.'s and mine. I couldn't have maintained my composure even if you had threatened to take away the Hallmark Channel. My joy was effervescent, bubbling up from my six-year-old self.

I write this during the lull between Christmas and New Year's Day, when I'm caught between the desire for one more night in the glow of my Christmas tree and the urge to lean into a new year with a tidy home and a fresh agenda. I love the holidays, but it's very easy for me to get so caught up in doing that I neglect being. My ongoing resolution---for this column and my life---is that I will become more proficient in savoring the sweetness of the moment, whether that involves a eating a chocolate cupcake, flapping a parachute, putting together a puzzle with my granddaughter or rocking my one-month-old grandson as he sleeps. Those aren't fringe benefits; they're the whole paycheck.

May your new year be filled with moments of light and joy.

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