It was a long, busy weekend.
Wonderful wedding of the baby of one of my kindergarten friends. Hosted the brunch for 60 the next morning, went home and packed, got 5 hours sleep, left for the airport in a storm.
Back to LA in time to help my baby pack for a study-abroad trip to Europe. Took her to the airport, after rushing by Target for last-minute necessities. Errands, then back to babysit James while his parents went to their small-group gathering.
He’s always funny when he hasn’t seen me for a while. Plays tricks. Laughs a lot. Flirts up a storm with me. Makes me fall in love all over again.
We walked down to the Farmer’s Market and picked up some fresh fruits and veggies, then came back to Munchkin Manor. Still on Georgia-time, I could hardly keep my eyes open.
I will spare you the details of why a bath was necessitated, but there was just no other way to deal with a potty situation. While James splashed away and talked to himself and his bathtoys, I lay down on the bed in the next room. (Don’t worry: I’d hear him if he drowned.)
He had a grand old time in there, splashing and laughing. I rested my eyes for a little bit.
Until I decided he was probably turning into a prune.
But he wouldn’t get out. I’d pull the plug on the water, and he’d stop it back up. So I just sat there on the toilet for a while, too tired to argue.
He pulled the shower curtain closed and hid from me. Then he slowly peeked around it and gave me the most utterly adorable, delicious little grin before diving back into the water.
And a pang of déjà vu hit my heart so hard I almost fell off the toilet:
For a millisecond, he was his mother, 26 years ago.
Now this is a little strange, because he looks pretty much (exactly) like his daddy. But every now and then, I’ll see an expression on that child’s face that came straight down the maternal line.
I have a faded picture of his mommy in a bathtub with that very same delicious little grin on her face.
I’m not sure why it hit me so hard. Maybe because I was tired and jet-lagged. Maybe because I’d been with kindergarten friends over the weekend. Maybe because I’d just put my baby on a plane to Europe. Maybe because we’ve gotten some bad news about a family member’s health.
Maybe all of the above.
It just about did me in.
It was wonderful and sad at the same time. The inexorable passage of time, and all that. Sunrise, sunset. Violins.
But it had a twist to it.
Because at the moment I felt it, there was also a stab… of realization… of astonishment…
that when his mother gave me that little grin 26 years ago…when I snapped that picture…
all the while, behind those big aqua-blue eyes of hers, behind that mischievous smile,
in the back of that precious little head,
a silent, hidden monster grew.
And no one knew.
I’m not writing this to make every young mother who’s reading become enveloped in a blanket of fear. I’m not trying to be melodramatic nor instill panic. My purpose is not to evoke a mental series of worst-case “what ifs.” The vast, vast majority of a mother's worst imaginings never come to pass.
But I wonder…
if I had had even an inkling of the existence of such a beast…
if I could have conceived that there was a time-bomb ticking away in that tiny blonde head…
what would I have done differently?
(Apart from the scenario of doing everything humanly possible to prevent its detonation.)
How would I have lived differently?
Would I have had more patience?
Would I have been softer, gentler?
Lived more in the moment?
Let the unimportant stuff go?
Spent less time on my house?
Would I have loved more, laughed more, lived more?
If I had been given a grim glimpse of foreknowledge into the future…if I had understood how precarious it all was…
Would it have made every second matter more? Made every day more precious?
because we’ve all got time bombs ticking away in these earthly tents of ours.
And none of us know the day or hour when they’ll go off.
As Francis Schaeffer asked, “How, then, should we live?”
"...What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short..." (I Corinthians 7:29)