It’s 2:00 in the afternoon and Little Foot and I are sitting on the back patio – he in his Little Tikes swing and I on a patio chair. All is hauntingly quiet outside but for the light panting of Thing One and Thing Two sprawled out on the cool concrete below us and the sporadic rustling of leaves under the rosebushes from the chickens scratching for bugs. Every few seconds they chatter.
I have mentioned before that Little Foot is a baby who thrives outdoors. Right now, in his swing, he’s got one foot dangling and relaxed while the other foot’s toes, slow and steady, fan open and then curl shut…and then open and then curl. Over and over he does this: open and curl, open and curl. What is he processing? What rhythmic thoughts are ebbing and flowing through the uncharted shores of his mind? Open and curl, open and curl.
His mouth is pinched shut and his eyes are scanning the clouds. He doesn’t blink. His tiny hands are gripping the rounded, plastic edges of his swing that is only barely swaying back and forth. They’re not gripping tightly enough to make his knuckles white, instead, I imagine they’re just tight enough to make him feel secure. His toes are still going: open and curl, open and curl.
I sit back in my chair and stare in the same direction as Little Foot. The clouds are a wool blanket of bland, light gray, and it’s hard to tell if they’re drifting. They must be, because their dimension changes from ash to steel to white-ish to cement. The change is so gradual, however, that I can’t tell how they’re moving. They just are.
I look back at Little Foot and my movement must have caught his attention because he snaps his gaze in my direction.
“Well hi,” I say locking eyes with him.
He watches my eyes for a second before shifting his gaze to my forehead and then to my chin and then back up to my eyes. He smirks – the kind where the mouth just sort of tenses up but the eyes change. I think this is what they mean when they say, “his or her eyes light up.” They do this thing – this shift that’s barely a shift but a shift nonetheless – into happiness. Lighting up? Not really. More like, seeing the space in joyous reciprocity. Letting love in and letting love out. A happiness exchange via subtle smirk. “I see you and I know you see me – and here, I am happy.”
We hold this wordless conversation for a few more seconds before Little Foot turns back to the clouds. His foot, the same one, falls back into step: open and curl, open and curl.
There are literally one thousand other things I could be (and should be) doing right now. I’m imagining my endless to-do list. I’ve had a load of damp laundry in the washing machine for two days that I’ll need to rewash before moving to the dryer. Since the weekend, there’s been a pot soaking in the kitchen sink with barbeque sauce stuck to its edges that I just keep refilling with new, soapy water. I keep forgetting feta cheese at the grocery store. Where is my phone? Ugh, my phone. I sometimes wish I didn’t have one. It’s like having someone constantly knocking at your door. All day that thing goes off. And all day I think about it. I am stressed about how many text messages, emails, facebook messages and so on and I haven’t responded to yet. But I’m also a stressed because I don’t know where it is right now and what if I’ve missed something?
I’m tumbling down the deepening pit of procrastination I am continually creating when I realize that I’m quite warm. I’m warm because the clouds have completely disappeared and the sun is performing its afternoon beat down once again. When did this happen? I look at Little Foot and he’s watching the chickens that have emerged from beneath the shrubbery and are pecking through the dry grass.
I missed it. I missed the transition from cool clouds to sizzling sun. I missed whatever it was that coaxed the chickens into the yard. I didn’t even notice that Thing One and Thing Two had moved – their panting ceased. Even the quiet has stopped – there are several cicadas calling to one another across the tree tops and the A/C unit on the side of our house is up and humming.
This backyard scene has completely changed from strangely silent to busy sounds and I don’t know how we got here. I missed it all. I want to ask Little Foot to tell me because there he sits, observing absolutely everything. Processing. Right-clicking and saving into some folder of his subconscious. I am in awe of his absorbing and unshakeable focus. Open and curl, open and curl.
In my internal dialogue of “should of, would of, could of done this, that, and the other,” and my apprehension that I might miss something going on in cyber space, I missed an entire shift in the world around me all while my eyes were wide open.
That’s something about parenthood that I am discovering – how much I don’t want to miss a thing. Everyone keeps telling me that it goes by so quickly – and they’re right, it does. It’s exciting but also quite scary. It’s alarming how quickly the coolness from the clouds can be burnt off and destroyed by the unrelenting sun and how some might not even notice that.
A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh) has a great quote: “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” And it’s true. There’s no reason to try and rush everything – to be the fastest, the funniest, the most popular, the most successful. We’re all on our own paths, making our way somewhere. Rushing through it all isn’t going to do any good. All it’s going to do is cause you to miss the scenery along the way.
As for Little Foot and me, I think we’re going to spend a little bit more time outside and unplugged. I want to see the sky the way Little Foot does. I want for both of us to see every flower and critter and puddle that we pass along the way and I want to hear his questions and comments because sooner rather than later, he’ll be on his own path. He’ll be floating down his own river and I want him to have the best, most scenic and beautiful journey.
Gray clouds creep once more across the sky, blocking the deep heat. I pull Little Foot out of his swing and prop him on my hip. I call for the dogs and we wander out beyond our backyard and onto the back parts of our property. Bunny and Tee greet us with snorts and tail flicks. All of us, this motley crew of mom, baby, big donkey, little donkey, Thing One, Thing Two, and a few eager chickens pace around together from plant, to flower, to tree, to barrel, just to observe. I can’t wait for Little Foot to start asking me questions about them. But then again, I don’t want this moment to end. We’ll get there someday.