It is true that everything in life can change on a dime. Life is full of experiences that mold and shade the lens through which we view things, whether we like it or not. It is like involuntarily going to the eye doctor, putting your chin on the strap and looking through the refractor. The Doctor flips through the lenses, in search of the right ones.
“One or two? One or two?”
Flip. Flip. Click.
“Now two or three?
Which is clearer Dana, two or three?”
I focus on the letters before me. I just can’t tell. I don’t want to be here. I thought my eye sight was ok. I agonize, debate, arch my brow and take my best guess. Keep trying.
Then we get to a lens and I know immediately. It is so clear. I am still looking at the same line of letters, but now they are bright and crisp. I see things that I didn’t want to see before. I see more clearly, and with a lot of time and help, I see beauty.
Now I know how I am meant to see.
It is 8:45 on a pristine Colorado morning. I walk alongside my children as they ride their bikes to our neighborhood elementary school. Upon arrival, my oldest two kids hug me goodbye, and then line up with their classmates. My baby still has one more year before she too must kiss me goodbye and join her peers. Not today though, today she is all mine. I turn to her and spread my hands:
“Lead the way Cara!”
Her face lights up and her feet hit the pedals.
She leads the way alright; her way. The paths in our neighborhood wind and twist all through the houses and green space. She tells me where to turn at each junction, and I obey. She doesn’t care that we backtrack and go the long way. She is enjoying the freedom, the fresh air, and my attention. Her small little shoulders bounce as she fights to command her bike and keep her balance. Wild ringlets stick out from under her helmet and a huge grin covers her face.
“Mom, you see! We are going this way! I know the way, right mom?!
I take deep breaths and I look around.
Yes, she knows the way.
We are finally headed toward home when she veers predictably towards the park. There is nowhere I have to be. She is calling the shots, and I let her. I let her, because it hasn’t always been this way. I let her because she hasn’t gotten to call many shots in her short years. I let her because I haven’t always been able to be around in the mornings, and I won’t always be able to. I let her because I don’t know how the heck I am standing here today, and I can’t believe I am here, and yet I am, we are.
Today I am here, and so I will take it. Today is beautiful. My heart swells in my throat. I just stand there and soak it up.
At the parks’ pavilion there is a gathering of eight or nine young moms with infants and toddlers. It is clearly a child’s birthday party; complete with cut-up grapes, juice boxes, mini-muffins, and baby wipes. I sit on the outskirts of their group so I don’t intrude, but I can’t help but overhear their conversations. They compare notes on potty training, sleep training, preschool visits and tantrums. They shift infants in their arms, wipe faces and fix plates of food, all the while chatting with their friends. I recognize their unique brand of exhaustion; it hasn’t been that long since I was there myself. I want to tell them that it won’t last, that I too had babies, and now they are bigger and I don’t even know what happened. I know even if I told them, they wouldn’t believe me. It wouldn’t help them. Today is all that they can make sense of. All that I offer is a warm and tender smile of solidarity.
I turn my attention back to my wild and free youngest child. She climbs and slides and leaps like she doesn’t have a care in the world. She is blissfully unaware that this stage of her life won’t last. She only knows today.
Next year I will walk the same path home from the elementary school, but I won’t have my buddy by my side. No one will tell me which way to turn, or divert me to the park. I will feel happy and sad, lonely and wistful. I will enjoy the beauty of the walk, and I know it won’t last.