A two-year old in the crook of my arm, I tried to unlock the front door with my free hand and wondered why I never wore gloves. Gabi, my then two-year old squirmer, was doing her best to stretch the top half of her body from my hip to the stair railing and pulling me with her.
“Stop it.” I was short with my words because Lordy, we just needed to get in the house where it was warm, not practice body contortioning on our front porch.
“No.” Her response echoed my curt tone, funny how these mini-people are also mini-mirrors. By now Gabi had both hands on the stair railing and was trying her hardest to become Stretch from The Incredibles as I held onto her waist and she held onto the wrought iron. There was something on that railing this girl was determined to see.
Give up time, I took a step toward the railing so she could get her face close to what she was straining to see. Nose almost to the stack of snow she stared at the white as I silently cursed the cold.
“Look” her voice was not whiny or demanding, it was awe struck. “Look Mommy each one is different.” And isn’t this cliché? I thought. My child taking time to smell the roses, teaching me to see with new eyes. But I obeyed thinking it might get us in the house faster and bent my body so my face was close to hers and for a moment I was blown away. That’s right, those child-like eyes really were seeing something purely beautiful and amazing. The tiniest, most delicate little snowflakes I’d ever seen.
Or I’d ever noticed really. Because I’d seen plenty of snowflakes before. I’d even thought them quite beautiful as they were falling. But examined them? Compared one to the other? I was moving too quickly to get from my warm car to my warm house, to get through life if we’re honest, to stop and notice.
I stood in the moment. I didn’t dwell or get highly sentimental. I simply stood and didn’t rush through it. I absorbed a tiny bit of God’s creation while my scientist daughter evaluated as many snowflakes as she could before her mommy ripped her from her investigations in search of a warmer lab.
I couldn’t stand long. It was too cold and I didn’t have gloves on. But I carried the moment into the house with me. That mini-mirror, that mini-me, showed me what life could be if I did stop and notice. I plopped her on the living room floor and unzipped her coat. I noticed each portion of the zipper as it became free. I looked at her face and saw the shape of her eyebrows and the contour of her nose and cheekbones. For a moment I wanted to capture it all. To not let any detail of life or this girl slip away again unnoticed.
That was years ago and my youngest babe is now the age that Gabi was that day. I am better at the noticing, though my life is exponentially busier with three more kids and a job outside the home. But the hyper awareness I carry everyday of the speed with which I pass by the miracles, by the beauty, has a palpable weight. I try to listen more to the “Look Mom” so I don’t miss the beautiful that’s right in front of me.
Alexandra Kuykendall is the author, The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir. While she spends most of her days washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma, she manages to snatch minutes here and there to write about the quest for purpose in it all.