We just sit around talking about the old times,
she says when she feels like crying
she starts laughing thinking about
Glory days well they’ll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days
~from Springsteen’s “Glory Days”
What is greatness?
In my mind’s eye I see cartoon tigers with booming voices,
kings and queens upon their thrones,
bright, shining trophies that catch the light just right.
Doctors, teachers, social workers who have
devoted their lives to helping others.
But is greatness to be pursued?
A title to be won?
Is it a prize above all others?
Can it be earned or must it be thrust upon you?
Do we all have it within us,
or does it only come to a lucky few?
I think back to my high school days.
My graduation ceremony.
As president of the class and salutatorian
I gave two speeches.
I sang Bette Midler’s
“The Wind Beneath my Wings.”
I can still see my boyfriend’s mother
beaming at me while my voice lifted those lyrics.
That year my class voted me Most Likely to Succeed.
For the longest time that honor perched at the back of my mind,
urging me onward.
Decades have passed since then.
My own son’s graduation looms on the horizon.
Mine is a distant memory.
I think about the intervening years
and how I have occupied my time.
I have not succeeded in the ways in which I imagined for myself.
I have not Achieved, Accomplished or been In the Spotlight.
Clearly my fifteen minutes of fame has yet to happen.
Then I think about the life ahead of me.
This week I will turn the age of Rosa Parks
was when she made her decision.
A choice not to move that brought into motion
so much more than she could have imagined.
And I think “What if?”
Greatness is not big and loud; pompous or boastful.
“Why do we lack the capacity to celebrate small bits of perfection?
Unless it’s obvious on a grand scale, it’s not worth acknowledging.”*
An eternal question, a point to ponder.
We strive for perfection, greatness and glory knowing it’s not lasting.
A flicker and it’s gone, but magnificent while it lasts.
Ephemeral means we can repeat the process eternally.
We can continuously strive for that brass ring that is almost within our grasp.
Yet maybe it is already ours.
A cake that takes three weeks to assemble
in honor of your beloved’s birthday.
Taking a photograph that stops your heart.
Praise that sounds like singing.
A patron wished me a Happy Mother’s Day
and thanked me for mothering the entire town
with my book recommendations, listening ears and nurturing ways.
I think that success is not always measured in trophies;
but rather in our commitment and dedication,
the ways in which we give of ourselves.
Greatness is a flame that flickers–
blown out like a birthday candle.
The legacy of love that we leave behind
–both in word and deed–
* from Tracy Guzeman’s forthcoming novel, “The Gravity of Birds”