There are two major attractions at the park: the ducks and a water fountain. Both are equally memorizing to little eyes. At the sight of the ducks even the youngest baby stretches out his pointer finger and throws his little body as far out the side of the stroller as he can. Get me over there! This past spring I bet I spent half my daily vocabulary reminding the walkers to stick by me and not anger the mama goose by getting to close to her babies. I save the fountain for last because it's the only attraction for which the children will agree to leave the ducks.
The fountain is best seen through the baby's eyes. As soon as the sound of running water reaches us, his eyes search the park to find it. The fountain is tall. I have to climb up three steps to peer over the top of the concrete retaining wall surrounding it. From the middle of the walled-in pool emerges the actual fountain and water pours out from all sides. On a breezy day you have to be careful what side you stand on, or you'll end up getting sprayed and a little bit that tasty recycled chlorine water will get in your mouth. The baby doesn't care which side you stand on though, as long as you take him out of the stroller and lift him up to see the fountain in all its glory. For a few moments he is mesmerized; his eyes glaze over as he studies what must be a miracle of nature. Then he twists his body and tries to wriggle out of my arms and go for a swim in the fountain. I am not fooled, though. I know he cannot really swim, so I hold on with both hands and repeat words like water! and fountain! as he squeals in delight.
Everyone is upset with me when it's time to go back home for lunch. They would stay and watch the ducks and the fountain until their tummies screamed with hunger if they could. I, however, know that once they get hungry I only have 90 seconds to get home and it's a 10 minute walk. So we leave before they think they're ready and everyone is in their high chair and eating lunch by noon.
This is my daily ritual. A ritual whose purpose is enjoyment and wonder. A small celebration of life in the middle of a typical morning. A ritual that gives us something to remark about on an otherwise unremarkable day.
John and I spend a lot of time dreaming about the rituals we will create with our son and, Lord willing, future children. Some rituals we already have and will incorporate into our new family life. Worship on Sundays. Farmer's market on Saturdays (when we get up on time). Summer berry picking and savoring apple pie in the fall. Slow car drives to see all the Christmas lights and taking the camera out for a long walk after the first snowstorm in January.
I want to light a candle on the table for family dinner during the dark winter months. John wants to make pancakes for everyone on Saturday mornings. I can't wait to eat those pancakes and then put our sticky little man in the bathtub to get ready for the day. We both dream about what it will be like to pull up to our parents' houses for all the major holidays with a little one in tow. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Easter. Summer holidays.
Through the last five years of my life I have learned this truth like never before: life is sacred. I have lived without. I have lived without a mother as she lay in a coma. I have lived without a husband as we navigated the endless paperwork of my immigration. Now I live without a child whose name is already son in my heart. Living without has been the lens through which I have learned to see what I am living with. As I have longed for my mom's healing, my husband's presence, the weight of my baby boy in my arms, I have wondered what others are longing for.
Are they hungry and longing for food?
Are they sick and longing for life?
Are they busy and longing for a day off?
Are they grieving and longing to go back in time?
Are they longing for a child whose someday reuninion is in eternity and not in a month like mine?
Are they longing for a mother not because she's sick but just because they would like a mother at all?
What are they living without? And do I know how blessed I am to be living with?
Life is sacred. Morning walks, weekend pancakes, tobogganing down snowy February hills- these are the typical, the ordinary, the cyclical events of life or they are the repetition of ritual. They are life, consecrated. Acts of grateful devotion to the Giver of all good things. They are the deep sweet breaths of living with, even in the middle of living without.
Tell me, what are your rituals of today? Of tomorrow?