One day last week, on the way home after dropping Julia off at school, Lucy asked if we could take a walk on the trail near our house. The weather was beautiful and she’d even made up a song about “Mommy and Bee! Walk with meeeee! To our treeeee! I so happyyyyy!” How could I say no to that? I couldn’t. And so, we loaded Phoebe into the stroller and we set out on the trail.
We headed north toward our favorite spot: The Tree of Many Trees.
I love that place. There’s something peaceful about it. Probably because it’s just far enough from the house that the walk wears the kids out and they’re quiet for a few minutes while they catch their second wind for the trip back.
We moved along slowly as Lucy was stopping to investigate and admire everything that caught her eye. She couldn’t possibly walk straight and steady when there were flowers to pick, rocks to collect and sticks to…plant. (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that’s not exactly how trees grow.) We lingered at The Brown Bridge and peeked over the side to watch the fish dart around in the muddy stream water. We talked about frogs. She found a Robin’s egg and a berry bush. But somewhere between a rendition of “I like to eat! Eat! Eat! Apples and bananaaaas!” and a bunny rabbit sighting, I started to get impatient. Too much time had gone by. My thoughts drifted back to the mountain of chores waiting at home. We were dawdling. We were wasting time. Guilt gripped my insides.
I checked my phone.
“Mommy! Look! A yellow bird! Do you see it? Do you see that yellow bird?”
“Uh huh. Come on, Lucy. Let’s get moving.”
“But Mommy, I never saw a bird like that! Look at it!”
“I know, but we need to keep going so we can get to our tree and head back home.”
“Okay….Hey! Mom! There’s a bluebird!”
“Alright! Alright! Come on, Lucy!”
I charged forward knowing that if I got more than a few feet away, she’d probably stop whatever she was doing and catch up. But she didn’t. When I got a step farther from her than I was comfortable with, I checked the time on my phone and turned, ready to spit out the words, “Lucy! COME ON! Let’s just GET THERE so I can relax a minute!” But I hesitated. Because there she was.
Running and giggling.
And chasing butterflies.
I put my phone away. I stopped. I breathed. I watched my daughter. I listened to her squeal and laugh as she ran toward me shouting, “That butterfly chasing me now! He likes me!”
And I wondered, what’s the rush? Why do I have to get to the tree to relax? Why can’t I forget my to-do list for a moment and just be here, now? Isn’t this – time with my daughter – isn’t this what’s important? I thought about all the variations of quotes and advice I’d read about how it’s the journey and not the destination. But I really felt it that sunny morning. Lucy knew it all along.
When we finally arrived at our tree, we sat close together on a bench and drank some water and ate bananas while Phoebe slept. I stayed quiet, just watching while Lucy kicked her legs and hummed to herself. I noticed a fresh crop of freckles splayed out over her nose and cheeks and couldn’t resist reaching out to touch them gently with my fingertips. “It looks like the night fairies where playing in the mud. They left tracks when they danced across your face last night. You’ve got freckles!”
She strained to see them a few seconds. Then her eyes met mine and sparkled with mischief. “They had a picnic in my ears. Know how I know?”
“They left crumbs.”
“Yep. Ear wax!” she giggled and jumped off the bench. She ran to check the lady bug nest we’d found on our last visit.
I closed my eyes and turned my face toward the sun, praying that the dark clouds I’ve been dragging around would remain scattered, so I could continue to feel it.