I’d like to think we all have a moment, or, if we’re lucky, many moments, when we are suddenly and unmistakably drawn–pulled, even–from our inward-turned world of daily life, when we’re shown something that opens our eyes–and opens us–almost turning us inside out, so we look OUTward. It is in these moments that we really SEE who or what is right there in front of us, seemingly put three for us, and us alone, at that precise moment, to notice, take in , to be inspired by, to love, to share and to learn from. Or, we are given the chance to see it for some purpose to be revealed to us later, but we know to tuck it away because it is extraordinary in that moment. Our senses are heightened, our minds are opened and focused solely on that moment, that something, that someone.
That something could be present in our lives already, even on a daily basis, yet be so mundane, so routine or so seemingly insignificant that it doesn’t register as anything other than ordinary and expected. Or, it could be a sensation, a vision, a sound, a feeling, an awareness, that we have never experienced until that moment, and it catches our full attention and may even move us deeply.
Sound familiar? Are you picturing fireworks, bells and whistles, orchestral or angelic soundtracks or some other dramatic accompaniment to the moment of “enlightenment”? Or, do you imagine complete quiet , hushed, pleasant sounds from nature, repeated mantra or the steady soundtrack of familiar voices and daily activities humming along in the background, as you uncover a gentle reminder about the importance of small, simple things in a gradual, layer-by-layer excavation? Do you picture a surge of deep emotion welling up inside you and spilling over in the form of tears…or laughter? Will the moment be fleeting, or be forever teched in your heart and mind?
One of these “moments” in my life happened at a time when I believe I really needed it, which is when, at least in my experience, we are most likely to be shown and surprised by them.
My two children, then five and seven, and I were outside in our yard one hot summer afternoon. They were playing with a favorite water toy–a waterway, with multiple pieces, curves and drops and a pump to raise and lower the water level, like a canal, and several different little boats to travel the route they created. I had also filled 2 tubs with shaving cream for them to be silly with, too. They had sunblock on, an umbrella to play under, and two icy cold drinks in their spill-proof cups, each. Just shy of patting myself on the back for thinking of everything they’d need, “I’m all set!”I thought. Soon, I was deeply engrossed in clearing out my garden beds anticipating momentarily getting some long overdue planting done.
All was well, until, as young kids are wont to do, my two got bored with the items at hand, and began asking for “new stuff” to play with. Squirt guns, the small, impossible to fill, empty-in-two-squirts kind that I should have known better than to have bought, were dropped at my feet. “Mom? Mom? MOM! Can you fill these NOW? Please? I want the blue one! You get the red one!” Sigh… I complied, and off they went. I had barely gotten my gardening gloves back on when they were back, with the same, urgent request, now bordering on “demand”, since one of them had lost the previous “battle” and gotten sprayed in the face by the other, who was declaring “victory”. The fourth time they returned, out of “ammunition” and getting crankier by the moment (as was I), I decided it was time to remind them that “Mommy has work to do, and I can’t keep stopping every five seconds (a classic use of exaggeration by a flustered mom) to fill these guys!” They looked at me dejectedly, and I felt that lousy feeling of frustration and guilt combined, knowing the work I was hoping to do was not going to get done (frustration), and the reason why was because my kids needed/wanted me to help them and play with them and I was doing something else instead (guilt).
I set down my tools and went into the garage to get the two Fire Hose Hero backpack pump-action water sprayers that resembled the packs and hoses firemen might carry to put out a fire. My two LOVED the fire department, and had won a pizza party the Fall before for “best costumes” at the department’s Halloween tour and costume contest. They sprayers held a little under a gallon of water, and they were a hit when I brought them out and filled them. One quick demonstration of how to use them, and they were suited up and off, running around the yard, squealing with delight. They loved them, and I was happy to get back to work. But they were SO happy that they were back within five minutes, begging me to fill them again…and again…and I had managed to get only two plants in the ground, with eight more to go. Envisioning having to abandon what I wanted to do, and not pleased, I said, “Guys, look. I need to get these plants in the ground! This is the last time I’m filling these!”
As I reached for the hose to fill my son’s sprayer, he reached out his little hand and held it, palm up, in the stream of water pouring from the hose. The water missed the opening and coursed over the toy and onto my pants and shoes and his, In the split second that my mind registered, “Oh, great! What a mess! Now there’s no way I’ll get this done!”, my eyes caught sight of something I may never have seen–really SEEN, had I not been granted the gift of “a moment”, that particular moment, to see it. I have never forgotten eh vision,the feeling and the impact that one moment had on me…
I watched the water flow out of the hose and over his palm. It was crystal clear, like liquid diamonds, glinting in the brilliant summer sun, and flowing in a tiny river over his warm and dirt-smudged little hand. He was open to the joy and the excitement of that moment, and was elated. He held a little-boy handful of sparkling, liquid diamonds, made of just plain water and sunshine. But, in that instant, I saw and felt with my whole being the beauty of what I was witnessing, as simple and ordinary as it may have otherwise been…and time slowed and my heart sped. Ohhh…his little fingers curled in delight at the sensation of the cool water on his warm skin, and then, he looked up at me and laughed, pure joy written all over his face, and he said, “Again, Mommy! Do it again!”, and I realized I had liquid diamonds in my eyes and running down my cheeks.
My daughter came bounding over with her Fire Hose Hero sprayer dragging behind her in the grass, and dropping it, laughed and held out both of her small hands, palms up, and the cool water with the sunshine gave her handfuls of liquid diamonds, too. We were so very rich, my kids and I, in that moment.
Looking down at their sun-kissed blond heads, and hearing their delighted squeals as the water missed their hands and got them wet (my aim was off because there were so many diamonds in my eyes, too many to collect before more came). I felt a flood of joy and a deep, overwhelming gratitude for the gift, right then and there, of being turned OUTward, eyes opened, and heart softened for me to truly SEE and FEEL the blessing of my children, my life with them, and the profound gift of being their mother, all in that single, simple sweet moment. I turned the stream onto my own open palm, watched the sun glinting off it, and felt my whole self washed of all that had closed my heart and my mind, so as to allow it to be written in my mind and on my heart that THAT, the awakening to a moment of new vision, and moments like it, are what matter most .
The plants got planted–eventually. The toys the kids loved then were replaced by book series after book series, two-wheeler bikes were mastered and ridden up and down the street til dusk, and many a kickball game was played with bases that never mattered much when the inevitable silliness ensued.
Time passed, somehow faster with each passing year. Mastery of the eye-roll, then the impatient, “I’ve got better things to do than listen to this”, arms-folded, heavy sigh, look away, foot tap, and other modes of communicating, like the grunt, the mumble, the silent treatment, and the “WHAAA_TT?” from behind a closed bedroom door when called, rival the complexity of the signals passed between a major league catcher and his pitcher, and prove to be just as frustrating and confusing to the opposing team, aka, this mom. But as proficient as they became these, so, too, did they learn to sneak in a gentle hip check or a silly joke, or a “Mom? Got a minute?” prelude to an unexpected and priceless heart-to-heart about the ups and downs of middle school and high school life. Hugs from mom being accepted and even reciprocated, eye contact for more than a millisecond, and moments of laughter–and tears…all these have learned to recognize as gifts; these moments, of little hands full of liquid diamonds in the sun, and I am grateful and buoyed up by them, especially on days when it feels like I am sinking.
I know now that the tough stuff will get better, and that we will mature beyond these trying years. But, in many ways, especially some days, I want time to slow, or even stop, before my two continue that race down the road to adulthood. I want more handfuls of diamonds days to heal and set my mind and heart right again. But then, I remember to stop. I look. I SEE. I say the words, “I am thankful.” and those moments, though they may sometimes take a little longer to recognize, or are a bit more subtle and less brilliant now, reveal themselves to me just when I most need them, and as I open my hands, I see them full of diamonds and hear my children’s laughter.