I love Swiss chocolate, but Dove will do. Its metallic blue foil wrappers have messages on the inside that I read with the same eager curiosity that I read fortunes tucked into fortune cookies. It is not that I believe that a thin piece of paper tucked into a cookie or a message on a foil chocolate wrapper can tell or determine my fortune. No, not that… but this: a few words can be a lens to the moment. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it keeps you looking.
When I teach writing to third graders, I teach them to look for the small moments in the events that matter to them. “Slowing down moment” is a technique Lucy Calkins writes about in The Art of Teaching Writing. Teaching children to do this is a process and it isn’t easy. Young writers often move from soccer to state fair in the course of a couple of sentences. “Slow it down,” I say, “Find the small moment… Write the small moment.” It takes them a long time to get it. And today I am reminded why. Sometimes life is really big.
Last Wednesday we flew all night and landed in Switzerland early Thursday morning. We were tired, but so excited to meet our new baby granddaughter. We boarded the train for Bern at the airport in Zurich. This was the last leg of the trip and the train couldn’t get there fast enough. We passed towns and houses and gardens and pastures of brown and white cows with big copper colored bells around their necks. Cows are well respected in Switzerland for their key contribution to milk, cheese, and chocolate. I remembered I still had a Dove chocolate in my pocket. I unwrapped the blue foil wrapper and read the message inside. I couldn’t think of better words to name the moment: “Love comes in small packages.” These words, a tiny lens to the majestic ordinary, have stayed with me all week. There are not words to describe how beautiful and special it is to hold, rock, walk, and sing to Georgia… but I can write about the chocolate wrapper.
The small moment is one of the many moments in a big event that surprise or delight us; it can be the prolonged ringing of church bells while cooking dinner; it can be trying to negotiate the farmer’s market without being able to speak German; it can be reading a book to a baby granddaughter. Small moments carry the parts of life that mean the most to us.
I stood in the chocolate aisle in a Swiss grocery store and found small chocolates wrapped with postcard scenes of Switzerland. Each chocolate is a perfect tiny package for a third grade writer. Maybe this will lead to another lesson on small moments. After all, love comes in small packages. And so does joy.
I’ve been waiting and waiting for your first words about baby Georgia. It was well worth the wait. Your story was so poignant. The next time I enjoy a piece of rich dark chocolate, I’ll count my many blessings that come in small packages. Teachers are surrounded by them, aren’t we? Thanks for the beautiful reminder.
Welcome to the world, Georgia… you chose your family well.
we miss you and love you, Annie…
nicki and vivi
Awwwwww! Love it!
What a lovely story! Your students miss you, but we are moving along well. We talk about you every day and hope you are having fun adventures! We were talking about nouns last week when the class spontaneously bust into song about nouns and verbs. I stood awed by the enthusiasm. It was marvelous. Best wishes! xox, Linda
What a wonderful story, Annie. I realize again how lucky Eliza, John, and Rose are to have had you as their 3rd grade teacher. I continue to try to grab these small moments and when I read such stories as you have written here, I am inspired again. Look forward to seeing you again and enjoy that little girl!
Congratulations on your new granddaughter! I loved your story and could relate well to it. Especially this part: “There are not words to describe how beautiful and special it is to hold, rock, walk, and sing to Georgia… but I can write about the chocolate wrapper.” For a love so indescribable, there really are no words. And that’s OK. Enjoy your time with Baby Georgia!
What a lovely piece with so many special parts. I am going to try to use your chocolate metaphor with my kids, thank you. Enjoy your trip, your family, and that baby.
What a lovely word picture you have painted.
and when you present your chocolate to a third grader – and encourage them to savor it slowly – another small moment will be born
I think you need to turn this blog post into a minilesson for your students about small moment writing. As long as no one is allergic, I think you have to give each student a piece of chocolate so they have a concrete image to hold on to after the lesson. Perhaps they’ll tape it into their notebook. Regardless, the lesson will definitely stay with them.
I love this. Society is so consumed with the future that we forget to take time and remember the little things, and the random acts of kindness bestowed upon us.