This morning, about an hour and a half ago, I came home from a morning walk. The house was still and quiet, as it is only when my children and energetic husband are asleep. It is one of my very favorite times, and also my least favorite. I love the silence, the lack of 6 other humans asking me for things. I enjoy the ability to move slowly as I make my coffee, the gift/curse of hearing myself think for a change. It is the calm before the storm. The breath that often helps me gather myself before facing the hill of the encroaching day.
It is also, however, the only time that I am able to picture what my life would look like without these six people that I am tasked with caring for. The time when I can see clearly how dark and lacking my life would be if I had only my whims to focus on. I have already had that. That is what college was for. And as much as I enjoyed spending thousands of dollars on myself, and indulging in my selfish nature, it was not better. I was not happier. While I moved quicker in the mornings, I also moved with less purpose. And let’s face it, I had no way of knowing how invaluable a great night of sleep truly is.
But this morning was different. As I turned to go into the darkened living room for my hour alone, I heard a little voice say, “Mommy.” It was so feather-soft, that I thought I might have imagined it. But I looked, just as I always look when I hear that name. Even when I am out shopping without my children, and know that they are home safe and warm in their beds. Still, I look. Because it could be them. They could need me.
So I looked. And there she was, backlit like a tiny protagonist in a holiday film. My Zoe. She stood on the landing of the stairs, barely showing above the railing. “Hi, Mommy,” she said. “Hi, baby,” I answered. And she smiled. Now I don’t know what Helen of Troy looked like, but I am guessing that my girl’s smile could launch a thousand ships. Or at the very least, speed the beating of a thousand hearts.
She came towards me in that sleepy, sweet, innocence haze that seems to surround children in the mornings. Reminding me of how little she is and how much she needs me still. We had coffee (me) and hot cocoa (her) on the front porch as we talked and watched the sun rise. She had asked me when it was still dark out if the sun was awake. I told her that the sun was just waking up and starting to get ready for the day. She wondered aloud if the sun had laid it’s clothes out for the day.
We talked and talked. About school, home, Christmas, kittens, and the future. So, pretty much everything that matters when you are six. And when you are thirty-three. As we spoke, I saw her smile more and more. Saw her glow in the way that only someone who knows that they are truly loved can shine. And I thought, this is my favorite. I hadn’t anticipated it in anyway. But it’s my favorite.
I plan. For everything. I overthink every situation I go into and every situation I think I may one day encounter. Seriously. And, yes, all that thinking is exhausting. One of the very best parts of being a parent is that you are always surprised. Sometimes the surprise is a 5 year old throwing up all over your bed, while you are in it, but frequently, it’s beautiful moments that you never saw coming. Little voices that say they love you and want to be like you. Chubby fingers clenched around dirt-encrusted dandelions. Hearts that trust you with their every secret.
So, this morning I did not have my quiet time to myself. Like most things in my life these days, I shared it. And I could not be happier about that. The older I get, the more I find, that the very best things cannot be found in Target, a mall, or even on Amazon.com. They are at home, for now, just waiting for me to look up and notice them.