I glanced out the kitchen window as the front lawn assumed a brilliant green and the driveway turned gray. Wiping the kitchen table clean from lunch, I mused over the graceful entrance of this storm. It was summer and the steady sound of water on tin was gentle, welcome. Just what this patch of desert-earth needed.
Suddenly, the sound changed from a steady prattle to a clattering, banging rage. The gutters began to spew, the ground began to swell, and just like that, everything outside was spilling over with water.
Rain drummed the house in a relentless rhythm. The sight of it blurring the air was too incredible to stay inside, so I gathered all of my children onto the front porch to listen.
The girls stayed by me no more than a minute. Soon, each had an umbrella in hand and they ventured into the downpour. They wanted to gauge its intensity, feel the rain pummel their canopy, soak their slippered feet.
How could I stop them?
Children don’t live in the past or future. They only know now. And there’s a lot to be said for knowing now.
The girls were soaked in minutes. Eliza ran inside to change her clothes and put on a jacket. Then they stepped into the sheeting rain again.
Their first few trips were timid in comparison to what would come. Slightly inhibited, they kept their umbrellas open, their fists closed tightly around the handles, their shoes still on as they twirled in the puddles.
Then they began to loosen. Shoes became cumbersome and their clothes began to drip heavy. So they shook off their flip-flops and abandoned their umbrellas.
Who needs an umbrella when you’re already wet?
The street gutters turned into rivers. Curls stuck to their chins. Their bodies moved at the pace of the sky.
It was pure elation for them to scuttle through this newfound stream, splat water with every step, splash and laugh until they had to stop and catch their breath.
Umbrellas were turned upside-down and placed at the top of the hill so the current would float them like boats towards the storm drain.
Even the boys couldn’t be held back.
They were first to find the big mud puddle.
We had fifteen minutes of hard, pounding rain, and then it stopped. The neighbor kids came out to join us. Run-off was still funneling down their side of the street so we crossed the road and took up splashing in front of their house.
I am in love with little Luke, his yellow galoshes and princess umbrella.
He is Spencer and Gordon’s favorite buddy.
Sami, of course, found the mud too. That girl loves to get dirty, dig in the dirt, and squish mud whenever she can.
Although it obviously wasn’t deep enough to swim in, Eliza thought it would be fun to try. So they made a human train, laid down on their tummies right there in the gutter, and flutter-kicked.
Around the time the boys got brave enough to join us, I noticed our cute neighbors sitting on their porch watching us. Marilyn and Jay. Their children are gone. They grow beautiful gardens now instead of little kids. They let my girls swing on their swing set, pick their tomatoes, traipse through their backyard whenever they wish. And I love them.
Later that afternoon, as I was peeling wet clothes from little bodies, I received this text from Marilyn.
“Your kids will never forget today. And neither will we.”
During those minutes, with a small camera in hand, pants soaked straight through, and laughter escaping my lips every few seconds, I felt completely alive.
The living moment is the most breathing, captivating, fleeting thing. It is magic. Emerson said we are always getting ready to live, but never living. Is he right?
Too often I choose blinders without thinking and like the work-horse, I am bent to the plow, the laundry basket, the floor, the sink. Sometimes I am too bent on getting us ready to live that I brush right past the living.
D. H. Lawrence said, “The living moment is everything.”
Five children in four years, including two sets of twins, brought new meaning to Mary Oliver's earnest question. Our little people aren't so little anymore, but life is still wild, still precious. And this is my meager attempt to hold on, make it last. I love Doug, running, hiking in the mountains, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, the edge of an ocean, and connecting with you here. So happy to have you along.