The Little Things…

“It’s the little things.”

I’ve seen the memes, read the quotes, and taken pause to reflect on what that means. I get it! But never as profoundly as I did just one year ago, as my youngest son and I drove from Lexington, KY to Minneapolis, MN.

When I glanced over to the passenger seat and saw – not the 23-year-old man about to begin his post-graduate life, but the 3-year-old boy on his way to preschool. I saw my 12-year-old anxious to get to his first day of middle school, the 16-year-old moving into the driver’s seat with his new license in hand – ready to take on the world. The college football player waving goodbye as we left him in Lexington following his dreams.

He was sleeping, and so I drove, music turned up, memory reel turned on. We were just outside Chicago; the dark, empty road lulled me into the slideshow of the past 23 years, every milestone, and every ‘little thing’. I reminisced about this remarkable life. Being his mom!  I glanced over again and realized that they were all really big things – these ‘little things’ we’ve been told we need to embrace.

His birth

Packing his lunch for school, topped with Post-it notes of love and encouragement

Driving home from little league practice to get a bat he’d left in the garage

Naming another new puppy

Refereeing conflicts with his brother

Smiling when he’d run into the kitchen to tell me he could smell dinner cooking

River rafting in the Grand Canyon – playing cards by moonlight

Accompanying him, at 13, when his team played in Cooperstown. Then negotiating my NYC shopping spree – only if he could spend the afternoon at the Jackson Pollock exhibit at MOMA

High school – the Saturday breakfast ‘buffet’ I prepared weekly for the him and his teammates

SEC football – the first time I saw him take the field

His first bowl game and the family ‘road trip’ from Lexington to Nashville to Jacksonville

Graduation, then Masters, now life…

I pictured every ‘little thing’ and I didn’t remember them as such – they were big, extraordinary things in an ordinary life. Some captured in pictures, all stored in memory and that night, as I drove across the midwestern plains, the memories flooded in. The little boy sleeping on my shoulder at his brother’s game had become the man sleeping in the car as we drove to his new life – his next big thing and it had been a most awesome journey. A massive collection of ‘little things’, the drive itself was a very big thing.

Our drives over the years served up some of the best memories. Whether it was just the two of us or every seat filled with friends – the conversations were always significant. Morning rides to school – calling in to win a radio contest. Pickup was for reflecting on the day. The spontaneous direction any talk might take is something I’ll always cherish.

This drive was no different. He and I covered every topic imaginable: politics, faith, friendships past and present, love, his dreams, the future, his plan, his hopes, and his goals. We seemed to touch on all the ‘little things’ that contribute to the big picture.

And there it was again – the idea of how much all the ‘little things’ matter. I just don’t think they are ‘little things’ at all. I think they are really big, really important things that require our attention – our care – always.

I do believe that being present is a choice – so maybe it’s that concept. Making the choice to be present in our life, in the lives of our children, this is what really matters.

We actually talked about that on this ride – how animals get it. They are always present, always in the moment. He shared his thoughts on how much we could all learn from animals – how much better we humans could be.

Summer in Minneapolis evolved – he moved home and into his new position – the next generation in our company – the future, his future. A remarkable 12 months of growth, experiences, the ‘little things’ that keep adding up. And he keeps showing up. Ready to challenge, enjoy and live his life – his way.

I love this new time in our lives but I can’t help, as I picture him sleeping in the seat next to me, and think back over the years –  about all the ‘little things’ that got us here, the moments that turned into the ‘big things’ – the memories and the beautiful life that lies ahead.

Mel Greenberg
Mel Greenberg
Mel Greenberg is the married mother of two sons in their early twenties. She worked as a copywriter and producer in radio and television before having children and making the decision to stay at home with them full-time. Once she became an empty nester, Mel struggled to find her voice and direction. Ultimately, it was her passion for writing and the discovery that she was not alone that led her to write “Running With Our Eyes Closed.” It is the first installment of a series exploring her characters’ struggle to redefine the next years of their lives. In addition to writing the next book in the Empty Nested series, Mel is working on several projects, ghostwriting and producing. When she's not visiting her boys and traveling the world, she enjoys life in the Southwest with her husband Dean, her beloved English Bulldog Stella, and German Shepherd Grazia. Mel is a contributing author to the inspiring book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.

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  1. What a beautiful post and a great reminder that the “big things” are often insignificant when we look back on what makes life meaningful. The little things really are the big things. Thanks for sharing your enlightenment as a nudge for the rest of us to take inventory of those meaningful “little things” in our lives!

  2. Thank you, Mel, for this absolutely beautiful and heartfelt reflection. Being present in children’s lives, in anybody’s life, is a commitment to love, patience, and care. What clinches all this is giving/making time without counting the hours, the minutes and the seconds.

  3. Thank you Mel…so beautiful, how can one not just start thinking of our own little children…or when we were children…we give them wings and then they fly…but we are alway blessed with butterflies! Thank you so much! Great read and welcome!

  4. Mel – You have discovered the wonder of reflection – looking at the little moments in life with the eyes of age to see just how important these moments are – for you and the other person whom shared your moment. Great story.

  5. I love this piece, Mel. Thank you for sharing it. I always say, “it’s the little things,” and your article makes me realize that the little things to add up to significant parts of our lives. Being present is important. There is no guarantee of tomorrow, and for that matter, we aren’t promised today either. So, embracing the moments and being in our life instead of standing on the sidelines is priceless.
    Your words make me think about all the moments that lead us to the breath we are taking right now, and I smile. Thank you for this gift this morning.

  6. And how we bottle them up in our memories and portion them out later… we could kick ourselves for just going through the motions of living life, taxiing kids here and there, and missing out on the dialogues that can never be repeated. When we do capture those moments, we try to script them too carefully in our heads before dripping them out with too much precision. It’s the minute by minute connection, talking of huge things or those little things, whatever they might be, it’s the connection that counts. This, this was truly a joy and honor to read, and thank you for sharing it with us. Welcome, Mel… saying that makes me smile, I have a daughter named Mel.

  7. Beautiful Mel. As a mother of 3 sons, and as a psychotherapist who loves to trace patterns in our life story – patterns waiting for us to recognize and often release them, I resonate to your thinking. How precious and life-enhancing to remember those moments of presence with each other.

  8. In and of themselves the moments seem small, yet when you analyze the impact over the years and whom each of us have become…because of those moments, they really weren’t small after all.

    Thanks for sharing your “little things.”