July 23, 2015

The Moments That Are Given

Mom! It’s graffiti! It’s art...on a shoe! I have to try it on. Please...can I?

It was my 12 year old’s first foray into heels. A big moment in our little lives. Working full-time when she was an infant had stolen other big-little moments from my camera’s eye -- the first time she rolled over, the first time she sat up unassisted...the first firsts.

Newly, gladly and willfully unemployed for the first time in 15 years, I took a picture.




The picture wasn’t as much of an attempt to catch up on lost firsts, but rather a net to capture a butterfly’s moment of the moment; because if history skips a generation and the math holds out, there are more years behind me than ahead.

My mom died at 63. Her mom died at 47.

I’m 46.

I’ve checked all over my person for a stamped expiration date, from the flabby inside parts of my arms, to the backs of my knees and other parts of my anatomy that shall remain nameless here. 

There is no such date.

Yet, there is a possibility of exiting in one or even seventeen years. It is a specter that reveals itself in the wee hours when sleep eludes me. Sometimes it’s in the peripheral view of everyday moments, like when my daughter slips on her first pair of heels. That’s when I capture the moment, then fan off the specter and tell it to go do something obscene to itself.

That’s just one of the things that happens because I know my history and its math.

Other things happen too. Beautiful things.

I pray differently.
Thirteen years ago, I prayed the baby I was carrying would be healthy. I prayed our marriage would stay stable and intact. I prayed for financial stability. Those requests were gracefully granted. As I edge up to the half-century mark, I pray my daughter will hear my voice when she navigates the crossroads of the teen years; and that my example will help her be a good friend and encourager of others. I pray these requests will be fulfilled whether I witness them from here or from a heavenly view.

I hear differently.
My husband’s workplace saga, the detailed picture he paints with words -- who said what, how they said it, bills of lading, procedures for shipping and receiving don’t sound like a boring account of the goings-on of a warehouse job. It sounds like We’re in this together. I trust you with everything I am and do -- even the minutiae.

I feel differently.
We were infrequent fliers on our way home from a family trip. My daughter still isn’t sold on the gathering speed and thrust of takeoff. Her breathing quickened, her jaws clenched and her heart pounded with enough force to make her delicate neck throb visibly.

I tried to intervene in her anxiety:

Honey, tell me about your happy place. What does it look like? What about it makes you happy? What does your happy feel like? 

As she told me, we approached cruising altitude. She let her tray table down and rested her arm on it. I slid my arm into hers the way a mom who is well past 47 years old or 63 years old would with her adult daughter.

I held that feeling of skin on skin, its weight and warmth in my heart. I thought about the years ahead of me -- of us.

And I captured the moment.