The Little Things

Mel Greenberg

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“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 the MOMA
  • High school: the Saturday breakfast ‘buffet’ I prepared weekly for 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 his Masters, and now a new 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 on that night, as I drove across the midwestern plains, with memories flooding 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, and how it had been a most awesome journey. A massive collection of ‘little things’. This drive itself however, 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 and the drive home was for reflecting on the day. The spontaneous direction any talk might take us 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 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 in his way.

I love this Peak Stage, a 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.

Benjamin Hotel
Benjamin Hotel


Mel Greenberg

Mel is a Southern California native and a best-selling author and publisher. A proud alumna of the University of Maryland, she worked as a copywriter and producer in radio and television in Washington D.C. before heading back to the west coast.

Mel draws upon her lifetime experiences as a writer, classically trained violinist and competitive figure skater to see her through even the darkest days. She is a cancer survivor, and prominent pro-aging advocate.

Mel’s debut novel, Running with Our Eyes Closed, explores marriage, life, and love after the nest empties. And she’ll be the first to tell you that moving forward - from then to now has been a wildly unexpected and beautiful journey.

Recognizing the countless other women who navigate to redefine their role during their second half of life, Mel reminds us we are not alone. When we remain open to change, the passage of life we are in right now has the potential to propel us into new discoveries.