As difficult as January was for most of us, at least one segment of the population welcomed the brutal weather: schoolchildren.
I took advantage of a snow day to host my 6-year-old great-niece for a sleepover. That evening, Riley and I made plans for our time together. We wanted to make a pot of vegetable soup in the morning, so we gathered all the ingredients. We did crafts. There was the usual bubble bath, snack, stories, singing and snuggling as she drifted off to sleep after a long, hard day of being 6.
Riley woke early the next morning with a rash on her chest. We called her mom, who decided that a call to the pediatrician was probably a good idea. The office wouldn’t open for an hour, so Riley and I got started on our pot of soup, cutting up veggies and squishing tomatoes frozen from the summer bounty of friends and family. To me the process was tedious, but to Riley it was an adventure.
Then her mom called. The pediatrician could see Riley at 9:30 a.m. It was 8:50. We had only 40 minutes to get to the doctor’s office. While Riley got dressed, I quickly surveyed the wreckage in the kitchen, stuck a few things in the fridge and covered others.
The drive was typical for a bitter, winter day: Ice patches and blowing snow on the roads. Cars skidding into and out of turns. Slow driving that required extra caution. To add to the stress, it seemed that I hit every red light along the way.
Riley sat in the back seat, singing along to a CD, oblivious to my growing anxiety.
We drove into the crowded parking lot and began our search for an open space. The only one available was at the very back, next to a huge snow pile that was going to make getting out of the car difficult. But we did it. It was exactly 9:30.
The snow was swirling and the wind was unrelenting, but the sun was shining brilliantly. As we made our way to the office building, which seemed a mile away, Riley screeched to a halt.
“Auntie Marilyn! Look at how the snow is sparkling! It looks like twinkling lights!”
I resisted the urge to pull her along with a remark about how we were already late. Instead, I looked at the area that had caught her eye. She was right. The snow was indeed sparkling like twinkling lights. It was glorious.
In that moment, I felt humbled by this child’s expression of wonder and awe. I was thankful that I hadn’t done what my instincts had told me to do.
And I was jealous; I want 6-year-old eyes again! I want to stop in my tracks because I notice magnificent beauty, not because I hit another dreaded red light. I want the curiosity of a child who sees splendor in the middle of a parking lot, despite a subzero wind chill. I want the voice of a 6-year-old who squeals in delight at unexpected encounters, not someone who grumbles because things don’t go as planned.
I want to be someone who lives life mindful of miracles, like most children do. I know I’m an adult, but I hope it’s not too late. Maybe I just need to hang around with 6-year-olds a little more often.