One of my favorite memories of V’s early toddlerhood is the morning I packed us a picnic breakfast and after dropping my husband, M, off at work, settled in for a rest alongside the Shenandoah River. We sat together on a sheet, her fingering sand, and eating snacks; me, watching how beautiful and precious she was sitting on the shore in the morning light. The sun filtered through the trees with just the right amount of sparkle to light the red in her baby fine hair, the water rippled happily yards away, and we had the perfect quiet of two people who can be content and silent together in the most restful sort of way. It was my idea of heaven.
It’s been a while since we ventured back to “our spot.” V prefers walking to strolling for the most part now, so it takes more effort to get there, and, with entering the “why?” and “What’s dat, Mommy?” phases, quiet is rarely to be had. But another spring day rolled our way, and when I asked her what she wanted to do that day, she said she wanted to go to the park. After a morning spent with friends on the swings, I tucked her into her car seat to return home, only to find her asleep as I pulled into our subdivision. Faced with the prospect of sitting in the driveway for another couple of hours, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I pulled through the drive-through of our most healthy fast-food joint, grabbed us some chicken and fruit and fries and drove to the local national park we visited last year. I sat and ate and read in the car while she slept, and when she woke, packed her food into her little owl backpack and we went on a picnic walk together.
In some ways, this visit was a different experience. V exclaimed over every bird she saw; “Geeses, Mommy!” I wish I was that excited over them! We made footprints in the muddy riverbanks and noted bird tracks and “Blue’s Clues” footprints left by an obliging dog. We learned to brush off bugs when they land on us. We picked up sticks and three pockets full of rocks and learned how to avoid bird poop on benches. We sat and waited to watch trains, finally catching one as we were about to leave for the day. She begged me to stay and watch the next one; I wished we had more time to do so. Always: the need for more time. So much learning is going on these days; some days I feel like I can’t pour it out of me fast enough for her to absorb. She is inquisitive and curious; she watches people everywhere we go, reporting to me the dynamics of what she sees: “That boy needs to listen to his Mommy.” (as an example). She is awe and sensation and curiosity and wonder personified. Watching her interact with the world is an amazing gift that I am grateful for daily.
Despite the more animated conversation on this trip, and the need to urge her onward during distracted moments where she dawdled during our walk back to the car, I found the same peace I had experienced during our first visit to our spot. Being with my daughter in nature, smelling the water and the earth, feeling the squish of the mud under our boots, catching glimpses of wildlife (a family of turtles perched on a log in the river), and doing nothing but sharing with V, I felt a peace I haven’t experienced in a while. A peace born out of leaving the computer at home, of having a dead cell-phone battery, of a spontaneous moment, of no distractions, just nature and my daughter. Peace. I hope to return again soon, after all, V wants to wait for those trains. Maybe next time, that’s all we’ll do. Just sit, and watch the trains, rolling by, one after another, until we are ready to move on, sitting in stillness and togetherness again.