Last week, before my two-year-old daughter’s hernia surgery, I found myself taking extra time to stare into her eyes. One of the most vivid encounters happened before nap time. For about fifteen minutes, I laid there beside her on the white twin bed that my husband had built, and we stared at each other and smiled.
We were so still, I could see my reflection in her pupil, ringed by sky blue, and I had this image of my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother all being reflected in that single, quiet glance.
I hugged my daughter more often in the days leading up to her surgery. I probably allowed her to get away with more as well. But suddenly, as it always happens, that day looming in my inner calendar helped put the other days into focus.
This week, three days after surgery, my husband was grabbing a bite in the kitchen when he glanced out through the open French doors and saw our sun-hat wearing daughters playing in the sandbox.
“Sometimes I look at them,” he said, “like that, and tell myself to really remember that moment. To take a snapshot because one day that snapshot’s going to be priceless.”
I looked out, too, and stared until the crisp image turned impressionistic from the tears in my eyes. Sometimes, motherhood feels like an unseen season, when the days aren’t in focus at all but flip by in a blur of flu bugs, temperatures, laundry, wiping down bottoms and toilets, and the incessant demands of just having little people need you.
Sometimes, I remember that other season when I was so driven to succeed as an author that each day felt like a race against the clock. And then—in the midst of that drive—I miscarried, and that inner race screeched to a halt.
That moment—standing in the light rain with my husband as he buried our quarter-sized baby in the earth—was a pivotal shift in my balance between pursuing art and pursuing motherhood. I had just finished two book signings when the spotting started, and though I know better now than to correlate what happened with the box of books I carried or with the free Starbucks latte I’d downed the weekend before, I do realize that my miscarriage was an opportunity for focus realignment.
I probably would’ve reached this viewpoint later, when my husband’s brain surgery helped realign our lives, and yet I am grateful I did not have to wait two more years for that shift to take place. So this week, this grateful week, when my daughter came through surgery without complications and didn’t even need Tylenol after the second day, I found myself holding my daughters’ hands as I led them down to our creek.
My husband, preparing the garden, saw us and went for his own creek shoes. Our five-year-old squealed, “Dada! You’re going to come with?”
He nodded and smiled and took the girls’ hands, so I could focus on getting my thirty-four-week pregnant self down the hill without falling. And there, in the tree-dappled light, we entered the creek. The water was so cold that the cold was almost all I could think about. The sun shone, and the edges of the banks were furled with that spring-washed green. I watched my family—my husband and two girls—and thought to myself: Focus, focus. For these are the snapshots that make up a life, and one day the memories will be even more priceless than the moments in which they were lived.
How are you going to focus on what really matters this week?