What wonders in this world there be if only there be eyes to see . . . words shared by a writing friend
. . . keep your eyes open and get on with it Laurence Olivier
When I walked through the entryway of my home in the wee hours of Monday morning a week ago after a delayed return flight, I was surprised by the intensity of color, the boldness of the bouquet of tulips sitting in their pottery vase on the hall table, the lushness of the gabbeh rug at my feet, the walls painted in rich hues of sunshine gold, Mediterranean blue and baked clay. Everything seemed brighter, more alive than when I had walked out that same door the previous Tuesday morning to fly west to Laramie, Wyoming for a visit with my son, daughter-in-law and Baby Viren. Something had shifted for me on the high plains of Laramie during this six days of open sky and intimate family time. It’s always a joy to visit with my kids, always fun to explore a place that I’m just getting to know, and . . . and it is icing on the cake, delicious lick-with-your-fingers-frosting, a sugar-high extra-ordinaire to allow an-almost-eight-month-old wide-eyed happy baby boy to lead you around.
And that’s what happened; Viren led me around. Each morning, while his parents, who, day after day, are up before dawn with this robust little guy, snuck back to bed for some much-appreciated sleep, Viren and I played. On forearms and lower legs, with head swinging side to side, Viren scooted across the floor, from living room through kitchen and dining area down the short hall to a bedroom that is a treasure chest of toys and stuffed animals. And I, his loving grandma, on hands and knees, followed. We stopped in doorways, touched the brass hinges, swung the doors open and shut. We grabbed at stuffed monkeys, rubbed our hands across their faux-fur hides, hugged them tight and squealed into their faces, and one of us, the smaller and more-wide-eyed, shoved a monkey’s paws and nose right into his open and eager mouth. And when I scooped up this bundle of enthusiastic baby, propped him on my hip and started the journey back to living room, he squealed, each time he squealed, as we passed the collage on the hallway wall of photos of his-truly. He loves looking at himself. He loves pointing to these photos of eyes and nose and mouth. He loves crawling back over to them again and again, and pulling himself up on the wall, and calling out for a lift. He loves shrieking as his grandmother obliges, as once again he’s face to face with his own wide-eyed and smiling self. Viren’s exuberance is contagious. Those early morning sessions woke me up. I felt as though I was buzzing inside, as though I, too, was wide-eyed and smiling at my own smiling self.
It was on Friday, three full days into the visit, that I soaked in an even larger dose of Viren-enthusiasm. Shelly had some work to do in Boulder, so we piled into the car, Shel in the front, Viren and I in the back, and we headed south to our old stomping ground in Colorado. And for the four hours that Shel navigated through her work day, Grandma and Viren navigated the streets and walkways of Boulder. It was Grandma and Viren’s big day out; we were on our own, and, we were up to the task. The highlights were many: a pirate’s hat for Viren at Grandma’s favorite yoga clothing store, lunch on a park bench in the warm forty-five degree sun, a laughing fit in the pet food aisle of Alfalfa’s as we both sipped Grandma’s ginger-lemon fresh-squeezed green juice and made funny pucker-faces as the juice slid down our throats. Although I know how to be silly, this bout of unrestrained giggles was freeing. It was noon and the lunchtime crowd was on a mission as they lined up at the juice counter and deli, serious in their intent, not in the mood to gurgle and coo and squeal with delight. And I get it. How many times have I been on a mission, plowing forward, forgetting that “silly” is one of the highest of vibes ?
We were still laughing when we headed out to the parking lot, still buzzing with the thrill of puckery juice and a belly-giggle when we, Grandma pushing Viren in his big-wheeled stroller, made our way across the street to the park by the creek. And that’s when we saw the ducks, the multitude of mallards climbing up the river’s bank, waddling and quacking and heading in our direction. It was one of those moments when your eyes widen and you are present in the present with your wide-eyed grandson, seeing the world through his eyes as the stuffed animals suddenly come to life and start approaching your out-stretched arms, one of those moments wrapped in present-day wonder in which you are also remembering the past, how his father, your son, at the same age, in another college town, on the banks of another river, also loved to play with these living breathing quacking creatures, how then, too, you saw the world with a wonder that was fresh and new and vividly alive.
And somewhere on that Boulder Creek Path, as I pushed the stroller along its banks, it was my father who came to me, how, when I was a girl, he told me the story over and over again, of the August day at church camp in Fryburg, Maine, the day that my mother was bedridden with the flu and he took over, how he placed me, a seven month old, in the backpack and walked the two miles into town, how he bought an ice cream cone and we both shared a lick, how I cooed and gurgled and smiled at the people passing by. I sense that it was a big deal, that it wasn’t something that he did often. I sense that, like me, he was relieved that all went well, that he returned to the mother a happy baby. And I sense something else, that my father, who walked with a musical gait and wore sunshine on his face, smiled a little broader on that day. I sense that he carried this wide-eyed enthusiasm forward with him and reminded himself of it each time that he told the story. I intend to do the same.