After dropping the kids off at our little village school, I took the right turn that takes me back home. I checked over my shoulder for oncoming cars, and it hit me. I was living in paradise and totally taking it for granted. Before me, several horses were grazing in front of a backdrop of mountains plunging dramatically into the lush, peaceful countryside.
For years I’d envied the little French small town kids for their fairy-tale childhoods, frolicking carefree in fields of green, picking wild mushrooms and preferring a pungent Reblochon cheese over an ice cream sundae.
Now it’s our family on the frolicking side of the ocean. Why then, is it that just a few months in, the fairy-tale seems so distant? It’s as if the grind of daily life constantly clouds over the scene. Our endless to-do list reads: fix the lawnmower, get a pair of sweat pants for cold weather soccer practice, take the car in for maintenance, and on and on and on.
The glorious autumn mornings are still there, beckoning ever so patiently. The mysterious cottonous haze plays light games throughout the valley and it drapes delicately over the farmland. The majesty of it all is right there. Where’s the wonder?
Sometimes it’s like I’m standing outside an aquarium, struggling to access the bulging treasure chest on the other side of the glass. I am just peering in, wanting to touch the sparkling gems. I want to crawl right inside and stand in awe at the stunning underwater seascape. But life with young kids seems to constantly pull me away. Hey, folks, I’m over here wiping butts and playing home referee. I’m watching my step, or I’ll trip over these toys. Don’t you see? I’m busy folding massive piles of laundry so kids have something to wear. So I can think. So I can be creative and breathe.
The irony is that meanwhile, I’m getting old and grumpy and losing hold of the wonder right in front of me.
Due to the way motherhood was designed, you don’t get long seasons away in monasteries to come back refreshed and focus your mind on the beauty. You’ve got to access it, right there in the storm. Hair is disheveled by the natural elements, the throat is hoarse from the strain, and yeah, post pregnancy, your pants even fall off from all the changes in our center of gravity. It’s a choppy existence, akin to a precarious trip across the ocean in a blow up ducky boat. But I am quite sure of it, those mothers who can still find the wonder between the wild whitecaps, will never grow old.
It’s almost as if I have to scribble a “don’t lose the wonder” reminder on a post it note, stuck to the plastic boat handles. Because, friend, I’m sick of holding my breath throughout motherhood and letting the beauty slip by. I want less survival and more wonder in my life.
That’s what I just did in my car, by the way. I just scribbled, “don’t miss the wonder” on a bright piece of paper. It’s my reminder to find life between the whitecaps of rushing to school and slogging it out at the grocery store.
Choosing wonder is an intentional choice. You’re either present or you’re not. You either have the sparkling house or you’re right there in the action, part of the wonder. You’re taking the photo, or you’re inside the frame. You’re watching kids, or you’re right down at their level, seeing the magic they see.
The wonder is right here. It’s watching those flappy hands and widened eyes. Listening to a young child pray for their classmate through a precious lisp. Wonder is found when we get down on our knees and look at life through their eyes. When we overlook the painfully late bedtimes and snotty noses because they are asking earnest questions about life and death, and we’re watching them fall into deep slumber.
When I think about whom in my life is young at heart, it’s never about age. The youthful ones are those who never stopped being curious about life. They still get excited like children free of shame. They refuse to be embittered by life’s disappointments and they know to value childlike wonder through it all. I don’t know many old people like that. But that’s the type of granny I want to be.
And so, this winter, we’re getting outdoors.
We’re going to places with few snacks and little entertainment.
We’re going to be listening to snow crunching under foot.
We’re choosing wonder and we’ll never grow old.
Fancy joining us?
Featured image courtesy of my friend at Delight Photographies
This post concludes the #Write31Days challenge, on the topic: Our family in global transition.
You can read the other posts written this month, by clicking on the links below.
1 – French Preschool
2 – Making friends in a new land
3 – ‘Yes’ people in a ‘No’ culture
4 – How language affects transition
5 – Not all French people are foodies
6 – The apple juice party
7 – I’m the third-born
8 – French-Mex ridiculous
9 – Busted by the Swiss police
10 – Educational field trip
11 – Visitors: the good and the bad
12 – Christmas in October
13 – A good place to get sick
14 – C’est les vacances!
15 – Playdate anguish
16 – The five year plan
17 – The Q&A edition!
18 – Holidays are for world-schooling
19 – The Granny I want to be.
I hope you have enjoyed following the journey and look forward to welcoming you back for posts on other topics around the Third Culture, cross-cultural transition, multicultural and multilingual bridge-building life.