We sweep through the big red-framed doors into Target, into the coolness and light and open space that smells like newness and popcorn mingled together.We stop for a cart and I take off long-striding into the belly of the beast, pushing, pulling my daughter who’s half-walking, half-riding on the cart, half-child that she is.
It hits me as we charge past the dollar bins that I’m going to have to slow down if I want to be with this girl.This girl who takes so long to answer a question that you begin to wonder if she heard you, so slow that I’m often tempted to answer for her.This girl who I too often push and hurry along, my hand on the small of her back.This girl who is so like me at her age.
Near the end of our trip we stop by the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for her brother.The pharmacist pulls a large hot-pink plastic platter of dum-dum lollipops out from under her side of the counter and sets it down.My daughter stands in front of it, her face less than a foot away from the wide spread of sugary sweets.She stands motionless apart from the slight shifting of her head as she gazes at the bowl.Time pauses.We wait.I shift my feet, make eye contact with the pharmacist, and shift my weight again.My daughter stands still, lifts her right hand toward the bowl as if having decided, then drops it again.I meet the pharmacists eye.We wait some more.
I’m tempted to interject, to offer a question to prod the moment along and suppress the urge not once, not twice, but three times.The time that passes feels like an eternity to me and the pharmacist finally does interject asking, “Is there are certain kind you’re looking for?”My daughter doesn’t reply, except to raise her head slightly as though the pharmacist has startled her awake somehow.Her eyes remain fixed on the bowl.Finally, slowly and specifically she chooses two lollipops, both green, one for her brother at home and one for herself.
As we head for the exit and the parking lot beyond I wonder what she was doing during all that time.Then I wonder when it was that I stopped seeing the bowl of lollipops, really seeing it, in all of its color and variety and options. I wonder what I’ve lost in the incessant stream-lining and fast-forwarding of my life.
* * * * *
I have long legs, impossibly long strides and life has taught me to run while walking.I don’t know when I became so fast, but I think it had something to do with the never-ending to-do list of motherhood.The weight of family life pulled on me like so many people drowning and I learned to kick and paddle quicker and quicker, treading water to keep us all afloat.Or maybe it has to do with the fact that our culture doesn’t put much stock in slowness.We want a quick fix, we pay for speedier service, fill ourselves with fast food and divide and shuffle our time like cards in a deck trying through every slight-of-hand imaginable to add one more moment to an already full day.
I find it strange that the addition of the twins has proven to be an invitation to slow down even as it increases the already whirling pace of family life. We have a large, double-wide jogging stroller and since I can’t carry two children for long we take it almost everywhere. Surprisingly, I’ve had several moments of awakening, of slowing while pushing that stroller, like the time I felt the blessing of my children rising up around me, as well as other times I’ve yet to write about.
When I wonder why that is, how it is that I’m somehow more attuned to the realities of the world within and around me when pushing that great, wide stroller spilling over with children, I can only conclude that it’s because of the way it slows me down. It’s a big stroller, easy to push, but wide.At the grocery store I joke that I’m pushing a Big Mac and it takes the help of several parents to open the doors in our path as I plod my way in to preschool pickup.Added to this is the slowing weight of the hands of my four year old and six year old, each perched on the opposite sides of the stroller’s handle so that our width is extended by two more bodies, our pace slowed by the addition of two more souls.
I wonder, though, if this slowing doesn’t somehow also involve the hand of God resting gently, heavily on my life, awakening me to the voice that says, “Slow down. Life is a meal too rich to be choked down in the back of your van while running from one thing to the next. Savor it, my child, like the slow melting of a sweet treat on your tongue.” Tradition often describes God’s touch as a “quickening of the spirit” but more often I experience God’s presence as a slowing and deepening that stretches and broadens the moment, expanding it in beauty and breadth until it resembles a small and fleeting taste of eternity.
* * * * *
Just yesterday we were back to the pharmacy, this time for my daughter who also tested positive for strep throat. We again faced the platter of dum-dums. As I waited and the pharmacist sifted through the lollipops, I found myself awakened to the moment, my eyes widening in the space my daughter’s slowness creates.The platter of lollipops stretched out before us like a rainbow, inviting me to stop, slow down and see.
My eye caught on a blue and white wrapper, a picture of blueberries in a day-glow color and my hand shot out of its own accord as if in answer to a question posed by that blue wrapper.My fingers closed around it just as my daughter finished picking hers and I looked up as if awakening from a dream and met the pharmacists eye.
“I’m taking one today, too,” I said as we pushed off from the counter and headed toward home, grateful to be slowed, grateful to be awakened to the taste of blue on my tongue, tangy and sweet, that lasts the whole way home.
This post originally appeared in Sept., 2012. This edited version is being reposted and linked with Wonderstruck, click through to read more posts.