Driving home from dinner the other night, I turned to Jacob and said,
"Isn't it amazing how children's baseline emotion is joy? I love how their default is silliness and play."
Meanwhile, Ezra sat in the back seat shimmying his shoulders, making faux farting noises, and pulling faces, thus proving my observation hilariously true.
Where does that effortless joie de vivre go when we age? My middle-aged default emotion is longing for a nap with a slight buzz of anxiety.
It's just that the wounded world feels heavy on my chest these days, a cunning wild cat waiting to steal my breath while I sleep. Sometimes my boundaries falter, and the pain of the world runs break-neck speed towards me, claws ripping at my heart. I pray to God for relief, and then I remember. I've born two small boys whose brains function on daily doses of mischief, joy, and wonderment. They are my relief.
I'm now convinced that God blessed me with children so that I could remember what it means to be truly alive in this world. I call them my time travelers from the past, embodied memories of my life's simplest and most joy-filled moments. But what does it really mean to be truly alive in this world? What are those simple and joy-filled moments made of?
My boys would tell you that to be truly alive is to saunter down the sidewalk like a slow poke until...surprise! You see a glittery rock, a skittering spider, or a gnarled stick just right for sword play. No matter the size, those treasured trinkets are to be stuffed into pockets, strapped onto backs, and proudly carried back home.
My boys would tell you that to be truly alive is to chuck off your scuffed rain boots with utter abandon and circle down the playground's yellow spiral slide so fast that even your laughter trails behind you.
My boys would tell you that to be truly alive is to shriek through the house with nary a diaper, wiggling and giggling for all to behold.
My boys would tell you, like all children would, that to be truly alive is to find pleasure in the prosaic and happiness in the humdrum. That, my life-worn friends, is living.
Earlier this week, Ezra and I watched the grey speckled pigeons from our window. They dotted our yard, preening and pecking for earthworms.
"Mommy, can I turn into a bird so that I can fly?" Ezra asked.
I understand. He wants to turn into a bird because he knows what it means to be alive in this world. Which is to say: he soars high and swoops wide and sings his song with flourishing trills.
The weighty, wounded world won't likely get lighter and wild grief will still stalk me from time to time, but I have my relief. It glitters in the rocks, it skitters with the spiders, and it sits on the wings of boys who can fly.