In high school, I often ran to a nearby neighborhood as it had what seemed like endless sidewalks and gentle (by Western Pennsylvania standards) rolling hills. Depending on how many times you looped particular cul-de-sacs, it was easy to rack up ten miles between the front and back entrance of the development.
Because it was a nearby neighborhood, I had gone to elementary school with several classmates and as I clomped along, I thought about the friends who lived there. Outside of those maybe dozen homes, the rest of the plan was a mystery.
But there was one house that always drew my attention. If running south, there was a particular home with a garage door that always hovered open, maybe six inches from making contact with the driveway. And for reasons entirely unknown, I got it in my head that a very tiny chihuahua lived there and they left it cracked as a sort of doggy door. I’d never seen a dog there. In fact, I’d never seen a human or a car there. But that was the story I told myself and it stuck. After a while, I couldn’t run past that house without smiling.
In New York, I was meeting an excellent man for a second date and running quite late. By the time I arrived at the cozy jazz club, my partner was sitting across from an elderly woman playing Scrabble. After apologizing profusely for my tardiness, I slid in the booth next to my date. The older woman smiled and said I could join their game. Each time I am in that neighborhood, I fondly remember that night to the tune of live jazz.
I was making rice the other night—which is to say I was hovering over a simmering pot of water and bopping to indie folk music—when I was immediately drawn back to a picnic table at a campsite in California with two of my favorite people arguing over how long to cook rice. Illuminated only by the small flame from the camp stove and a couple headlamps, I sat opposite my friends cutting bell peppers and wondering how life could be more beautiful.
In my parent’s neighborhood, there’s a sewer grate that reminds me of the time a neighbor and I saved a baby bird that had fallen and been trapped. In my favorite hometown park there’s a path through the woods that reminds me of the time my teammates and I hiked for hours basking in the joy that is getting lost close to home. In my adopted home in Washington state there is an outdoor table on the main street that reminds me of eating bad kimchi at 11:00 PM with one of the kindest hearted people I know.
More and more recently, I’ve found myself remembering. And not the big moments like graduating high school or moving to New York or getting a promotion. Little moments. Like the time my best friend and I stopped to buy peaches on the #SmileProjectRoadTrip and somehow both caught an intense case of “the giggles” as we were walking back to the car… how we both had to lean against the car with tears coming from our eyes as we fought to catch our breath.
You always hear that it’s the little things that make up the big stuff. I’m finally really understanding that. And I’m feeling really grateful for everyone (even strangers with open garage doors) who makes the little moments big.