it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had?”
from The Ambassadors by Henry James
I am not a great Henry James fan, and had not come across this quote until a request for help for an essay subject from Kate got me googling.
As it happens, the book I was just reading, Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, simply by listing a random array of possibilities, brilliantly captures all that can be wonderful as a parent, and what can be missed. And that it’s often the seemingly small, inconsequential things in life that really count in the end.
Their father had never taken them to the open-air pool on Jesus Green, played rousing games of Snap or Donkey, never tossed them in the air or caught them or pushed them on a swing, had never taken them punting on the river or walking on the Fens or on educational trips to the Fitzwilliam.
Case Histories is a strange combination of the jolly and the terrible that somehow works. With a light touch and decptively simple, short sentences Atkinson illuminates both the terrors and joys of life, brilliantly interweaving the viewpoints of narrator and character, often within a single paragraph. And the message (to use a crude phrase), perhaps the same message of all art (?) –
Live all you can, it’s a mistake not to.