Regretting Missed Opportunities

When we moved from Farmington to Winchester in 1963, Mother had saffron among her bottles of spice. I remember asking her why there was just a small foil packet at the bottom of the spice jar, and she explained that it contained saffron: a spice so rare and precious that it was only for to most special occasions. Four decades later we packed up the house when Dad moved, and the jar was still there, the packet unopened.
My relationship with Saffron is different. For years at the Pennsic Wars our stall was near the Spicer’s Guild. We could hear Theoderic crying: “Herbs and Spices at Reasonable Prices!” and if I went over there, I could get a gram vial of saffron for $5 (OK, that was ten years ago). Not cheap by any count, but certainly one can put a 50 cent pinch of saffron into a recipe, as one can add vanilla extract, nuts, or an extra egg to a recipe to make it better. I make saffron buns every Lucia Day, saffron rice occasionally, and put saffron in my Ganesh’s Treats cookies. When I first tried it, I thought saffron was just to add color, but I have come to love the flavor. It makes me sad to think that my mother was too bound by her frugality to come to appreciate the joys of saffron. I sometimes wonder what I’m missing just because I don’t know how wonderful and available it is.
I’m a big fan of the Blessed Bee magazines, but haven’t gotten into the Crone yet. OK, I’ll admit that coming to terms with entering the Crone part of your life is hard for most women, even after one turns sixty, but having gotten ready, I decided to check it out,  subscribe, and even get the back issues. Whoops! Turns out that the publisher had wisely not made too many copies of those early issues, and they are now only available for downloading. OK. That’ll teach me to not put things off! (Let’s face it, when I die, my kids are going to have to throw out tons of old magazines from Blessed Bee to Mother Earth News, not just a measley packet of old saffron!) I GOT the announcements, I just didn’t take advantage when I had the opportunity. My mistake. But it’s right up there with missed sales, and other opportunities.

Looking back on my life it is the missed opportunities that I tend to regret. But when I think about them, many are like Woodstock. When my brother and his friends said they were going to a rock concert a few hours away, I decided to go with them. What the heck? They always urged me to get into the “teen scene” more.  When I came down from throwing some stuff into a bag, I saw Bob and his friends pulling away as I ran after, calling “wait for me!”. Did they forget me or mean to ditch me? I have no idea, but it was one of the lucky breaks that fill my life. Had I been along I would have been miserable, and made everyone around me miserable. I wasn’t that fond of rock, disapproved of free love, smoking and drugs, and was VERY fond of regular meals. When he got back Bob told me that he hadn’t really slept, and all he’d eaten in those three days was a half an avocado sandwich. I can only imagine what a downer I’d have been to everyone around me. Yes, I missed the opportunity to take part in an historic event, but in retrospect, missing it was a blessing for me, and anyone else I’d have been near.

Of all the things in my life I regret, missed opportunities are those that bother me the most.

But, this may be simply the way humans see the past. When we were wondering whether Diana should accellerate a grade, I asked everyone one I knew who’d had that opportunity how it had worked out for them. Every one who had “skipped a grade” looked back and wished that they’d had more time to just relax, and not had to deal with kids who were older. And every one who had decided to stay with their friends, now wished they’d taken that opportunity when it was available. Either way, the regret was consistant. From this we figured that no matter what we decided, Diana would regret it later- just different regrets. (Actually, the perverse creature, doesn’t seem to- perhaps to prove us wrong!) We left it up to her, and at least it would have been her decision. The “road not taken” is always going to be one of sparkling possibilities, a potential future un-marred by the gritty realities of the things that lead to daily compromises.

Missed opportunities are easy to regret, but as time passes, I often see that the road I did take has been full of blessings. Perhaps an invisible guide helps us get to where we are now, or perhaps it is simple serindipity that led us here. I’m not going to say that I will always embrace what made me what I am today. I’ve thouroughly enjoyed what I’ve done for the last 10 years, but I’m also sure I’d have enjoyed whatever totally different life I’d have had if my beloved had NOT died. On the other hand, I can look back and feel that NOT having been chosen Baron and Baroness of Stonemarche may have been one of the luckiest breaks I’ve ever had. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when it’s happening. Sometimes you had a lot less control than you mentally impose on your memory of the past. I try to trust that I did the best I could in whatever the situation was at the time.

At the end of the year we tend to look backwards and think about our past and how it led us to where we are now. But what I’ve noticed this year is how very few of the crossroads I’ve passed have changed my ultimate journey. Whichever path I took, it’s still going up the same mountain. Whoever I meet along the path is a good companion for that part of the journey. If I am going to put down some symbolic burden to “lighten my load”, I think I’m going to put down regretting missed opportunities. I do regret some things- any chance I had to do good for someone and didn’t has left a scar in the skin of my conscience. But most things are just not that important. I enjoy looking back, being reminded of where I’ve been. But the more I think about it, the better the path ahead looks, even when I have no idea which one I’m going to take.


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