I collect things I wish I could have once done or once possessed like little mind-trinkets. Let me explain. Instead of allowing disappointments and regrets to follow me around like the constant rain cloud over the head of poor old Joe Bfstpik from the famous L’il Abner comic strip by Al Capp, I instead, have a grand a wonderful collection of onces.
Let me explain further. There was a time when I was Once enrolled and set to begin classes in law school. It was an exciting time filled with school acceptance, a dog-eared catalog with classes and professor preferences circled and selected. I was enrolled. I was ready! Then I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After a while, becoming an attorney became something that was Once on my horizon, but in reality did not and could not occur.
Then there was the time that I was Once going to travel to the South of France to attend a very fancy-schmancy writers conference held in a very romantic setting in an old convent with weeping stone walls and yummy French wines served at every dinner. The very wondrous and famous Australian movie director, Jane Campion, was to be the Saturday night key-note speaker. I had visions of walking along hushed hallways with her at my side while she drooled over my book, begging me to let her direct her favorite actress, Holly Hunter, as my main character. As my hand hovered over my checkbook, ready to give up a sizable chunk of moolah in the off chance that I could wave across the room in the direction of Jane Campion, my cooler head prevailed.
I laugh now that while I was Once going to attend the trip-of-a-lifetime writers conference, in reality, the budget of a simple woman didn’t include such pie-in-the-sky dreamy thoughts. It still doesn’t.
Of course, my greatest Once was when my children were very little. They’ve grown now into wonderful, amazing people raising children of their own. Still, Once they were teeny tiny little children whose brilliance was as bright as the sun flashing on their faces. They are my grandest and most special Onces and will always be so.
My collection of Onces is eclectic and vast. I have a wonderful and long list of shiny objects found during window shopping trips that caused ooohs to slip from my lips and make my fingers beg to wave a credit card through the air. Alas, the credit card obediently stayed in my wallet. There are trips not taken and experiences undone. There was that champagne balloon ride, the lifetime dream trip to Ireland, that moonlight train journey, each once considered, but never realized. There are cities all across the country that make my foot itch to walk their streets and wonder at their sites and sit in their little outdoor cafes and even eat pizza handed out from windows right on the sidewalk.
There was that beautiful hair clip I once wanted so much it made my teeth ache.
Yesterday, I saw a chair in a shop that made me stop dead in my tracks. It was just a small chair, powder blue with poodles printed on the fabric. Poodles! How could I NOT love this poodle chair … and I wanted it and I wanted it and I wanted it. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t a place to put it or that powder blue would be a color completely out of place in my home filled with its russets and greens and grays. It was a POODLE CHAIR … and … I. Wanted. It. It carried with it the rationalization that it was not only very, very inexpensive … it made my mouth water. Right there in that store filled with little chairs and chotskies and women with more regrets than sense.
But here’s the thing about interrupted educations and unfulfilled experiences and things we must pass by because the inconvenience is greater than the desire: Long ago I realized that disappointment and regret for not having this or for never doing that — in the end — only serves to make my heart too heavy to carry inside my chest. Instead of holding onto sadness for things that never were, I know that ONCE there was a magical moment of possibility.
So, someday in the future, I’ll think back to yesterday and I’ll remember that Once I walked by a small, soft blue chair and it made my heart sing and my mouth smile and … in that shining, sparkling moment … I gained one more beautiful item to add to my large Magical Collection of Onces.