“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Yesterday, I was driving home from an appointment. On the curb, where I turn into my street, a father with his two-year-old sat where the olive trees grow. The sun was high over head at noontime and the light filtered through the leaves, leaving shiny patches on their smooth tanned faces.
Peals of laughter rang out from both father and his son, who was at the moment, having a ball playing with a plastic bottle cap. He held it up and played with as if it was a prized possession. There is magic in toys of this sort that can entertain for hours.
Both father and son were having the time of their lives. Chatting it up and laughing up a storm. So full of energy, that if they had done an impromptu rain dance a cloud would have surely appeared.
I rounded the corner, and slowed to a snail’s pace in case the boy decided to dart from where he was sitting, as young children often do.
I started feeling the wave of a blush fall over me as I realized I had entered and was enjoying their intimate moment when I wasn’t an invited guest to the party. I offered a little wave out of my embarrassment right as I passed them. The little boy waved back to me in the same way that my children used to when they were little. He waved his tiny hand, holding tightly onto the bottle cap. My heart turned into a puddle in my chest.
On autopilot, I parked the car in front of our house and got out to go inside. But, as my car door shut, the duo pulled me back to them like a magnet. Instead of walking to the door, my feet took me down the block toward where they sat.
As I walked down the block, a rush of a billion memories came flashing through my mind; A precious birth, bath time with gobs of toys and snorkeling gear, snuggling until my sweet babes fell asleep, the way the sun danced on their hair at the beach or in the breeze, stitches in the emergency room, and on and on until I returned to the present just as I neared the end of my short walk.
I was surprised that I had no idea of what I was going to say or do. My hand instinctively reached for my camera-laden phone in my purse. But, as I got a few steps closer, I realized that the father was holding a new phone in his hand. I slid mine back into my purse.
I introduced myself with my name and a handshake. I then asked them if I could take a photo, as this was too sweet of a moment to miss. The father’s wide grin said volumes, as he handed me his camera. We had a little mini-shoot of about ten photos. At least one of the photos was frame-worthy. I wish I had a copy, but then again it was their moment that I was lucky enough to have happened upon.
We exchanged a few more pleasantries and the father explained that his wife was working at one of the houses on my street, but they couldn’t find a babysitter that day.
He was beaming over the photos that I took, as I told him that my three children are all now teenagers. He mentioned how fast time passes. I felt a stab of bittersweet love for my children as I told him to enjoy his precious little one.
I turned at this point and started walking back home; My heart a little heavier. I kept thinking of one of my favorite quotes and how it applies to my children—-to everybody’s children:
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ e.e. cummings
I realized then that the quote was as much for me, and everyone else, as it was for children. I pray that I will quickly grow up enough to let my children leave the nest with as much grace as I can muster.
I instinctively turned back to my new found friends and added, “And remember not to blink.” And I meant it with all of my heart, as all moments in life have aspects to them that are too sweet to miss.
Whether you blink or not, the reality of the past and the present will exist as long as you do. Life speeds by at a pace we can’t fathom.
Here is my reality of a life that speeds by quicker than I will ever be able to grasp: