Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Twenty One Years After The Stranger Baby Smiles

Twenty One years ago, I was expecting for the first time and a very proud and polished special educator with no intention whatsoever of a baby slowing me down from what I very seriously considered my vocation of working with kids with special needs.  I'd acquired a master's along the way, I achieved good success with my students, allowing 4 of the six of my "graduates" to obtain job sites the following year.  It was a particular gold star on my teaching record, as I'd been given all of the "toughies," being the rookie in the school.   Yes, I was planning on working as a teacher for 5 years, getting a Ph.D and becoming a principal.  All that I needed to do was find the right day care.  

Providence I thought, was with me.  Across the street from where I worked and adjacent to where I lived, a small church had a daycare.  I went to visit.  The price was right. The people were nice.  The place smelled clean. I was all set.  Then I saw that kid, that little boy in a bouncer with a blue stripped footie outfit.  I don't know his name, but he gave me that toothless smile and wriggled with joy when he saw me.  It was enough.  It was too much.  I ran out of the room, scrambled to a payphone and bawled to my husband, "I don't care if we're poor and eat dirt, I'm not doing it." The church had a bunny in a hutch.  Pregnancy hormones took over, I'd be putting my baby, my bunny in a cage.  Those smiles he'd give with his whole body, they'd go unnoticed or given to some strange woman shopping for a day care for her child yet unborn.  Those smiles would one day be my smiles to receive from my son, but not if he was here. Those were my smiles. MINE. I felt suddenly so greedy for the smiles I'd be not seeing.   It was the day I know I surrendered.

I'd love to say God won forever that day, but it was just another battle with me.  There were others like when I tried graduate school and working part time, even blogging became an escape for a time until I regulated it. Mine is a restless spirit, it always thinks it is missing out, it's hard for me to come to grips with the reality that I have to stop trying to see where everyone else is, and what everyone else is doing, and be present.  It used to be a problem after communion, I'd watch to see who I knew when they came up to receive.  

Today, the idea of working next year flitted across my head, after all we'd have two in college and two in high school and four still in elementary and one with special needs and she'd be three. It would be okay. Not great but okay.

But then I looked at my still two year old daughter, shouting with joy as she pointed out the window, how she played with her cup and two ponies and four blocks and a car with her brother on a makeshift table made out of a laundry basket. The feeling of the twenty years I've been given with their hidden smiles overwhelmed me.  I'd been given 20 years of seeing these smiles.  Twenty years had flown by.  Twenty years of diapers and laundry and carpools and cars filled with happy meal toys and endless bedtime stories and baths and kisses and pictures of mom as a queen, as a princess, as a fairy, as the sun, as all the things that a kid draws to say, "Thanks Mom." and still I felt somehow, I'd slept walked through the whole thing.  How'd I miss it? It was so fast. It is so fast.

Today we plan for a child to visit high schools and another to visit college, a third is getting first communion, another learning to tie her shoes and read, two are hopefully potty training, and one is at that amazing age of 9, (I accidentally said 8 this morning) when they're self sufficient and so pleasant to have around, you just marvel, how did I get this lucky to have such a gentleman for a son. (He got up and took out the trash without complaint this morning, I'm still just so grateful).   With ten, there is always a party to plan or a place to go or a detail that needs attending, and the result can be a "Get it done" mentality that robs the experience of the joy. Reading a story should be for the pleasure of reading, not to be able to add it to the list.  It is hard to hold onto that moment, as hard as it is to hold onto the reality that when we receive the Eucharist, we are receiving Him.  We forget to live in the moment and walk in the garden unhurried, we live endlessly distracted by everything but what we should be focused on all of our lives.  I had that moment when I saw the stranger baby's smile.  I've had it since, I had it this morning, watching my daughter stare out the window. There is nothing more important than this, even though this looks to all the world, like nothing.  

So I dusted off that old thought and put it back on the shelf with a firm "Later." I told myself, "You've waited this long, you can wait a few years more.  Work will always be there, waiting to be done.  Growing up won't wait one moment while you're busy."   Besides, I'd miss the smiles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is not always easy to be present, but it is what we are called to be. I struggle on some days to be present to the only person I really need to be present to other than Christ. I am glad you wrote this reflection.

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