Have you ever noticed the way that kids notice the world?
Last week, Jackson and I were walking hand in hand down the brick sidewalk in front of the library. He carried his canvas bag from preschool over one shoulder and his lean body bounced up and down beside me with each step he took.
Christmas decorations were being set up along Main Street just in time for the evening parade. The walkway before us was lined with a row of lamp posts that had been wrapped like candy canes with a ribbon of red. Suddenly, Jackson stopped in his tracks as his eyes took in the new look of a familiar location. He pointed and galloped over to one of the recently transformed lamp posts. “Look at that, Mommy!” he exclaimed. As his fingers traced the ribbon he explained, “It goes round and round like a twirly slide! And it feels so soft, like velvet!” He grinned and the gap between his two front teeth was revealed. I knelt down beside him and traced the edge of the ribbon with my own fingers. “It does feel soft!” I agreed. I sensed that he was offering me a gift.
We walked across the street making our way toward the parking lot behind the coffee shop where I had parked the van. When we came around the corner, the town’s Christmas tree came into view. “Wow!” Jackson sighed. We ran together straight for the tree. He climbed up the stone wall and shimmied carefully around the top of the stone ledge, making a complete circle around the tree. He stopped now and then and craned his neck upward, absorbing the height of this towering green giant. He paused to look at all the ornaments along the way – a shimmery snowflake, a large red globe with stripes of golden glitter, sequined candy canes, twinkling stars, red bows.
His fingers brushed against the pine needles that marched along the branches like hundreds of soldiers. “Feel this, Mommy! It’s so prickly!” I reached out and ran my fingers slowly along the rows of green needles and realized that Jackson had indeed been giving me gifts the whole morning, the gift of noticing. He was showing me the world. As I was learning to open his fine gifts, I remembered that often the best gifts aren’t wrapped in shiny paper at all.
I helped Jackson jump down from the stone wall. His feet landed hard on the pavement in one swift thud. Then he looked at me and said, “Let’s step back and see the whole tree!”
And so we did. We stepped back, farther and farther, until we had a sweeping view of the proud Christmas tree in front of us. I crouched down beside him while our eyes took it all in – the mighty star perched at the very top, the mountain of green branches stacked from the base to the highest peak, the ornaments clinging tightly to strong limbs. We noticed the endless strands of cascading lights and wondered what it would look like at night with each bulb aglow, twinkling in merriment.
I’m learning that the gift of noticing is a never ending present. The world is always fresh and waiting for us to find and appreciate something new. We just have to pay attention, to watch closely. With much ease, Jackson often reminds me to notice the small wonders in life. He reminds me that the tiniest of details can be worthy of pause, worthy of acknowledgement. And lest I forget, he reminds me of the beauty in noticing the bigger picture. In taking a step back to look at how all the details merge together to form the larger, grander view.
Motherhood is chock-full of lessons I never learned in all my 17 years of sitting in a desk at school. Sometimes we get so caught up with the details of life, that we forget to step back and see the big picture and what really matters. Other times we find ourselves working so hard at the grand scheme that we forget to spend the minutes of our days engaging with the small moments of life. I’m learning that both are essential. These opposing forces are each worthy of our precious, precious time.
Betty Smith wrote, “Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or the last time. Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” As I watched Jackson on that warm December afternoon, I realized that this is the song of his heart.
He finds wonder in all the simple joys. He notices the world and all its beauty. He marvels at it. And guess what? His days are filled with glory. I think Betty is on to something. There is much beauty in the small wonders. There is much beauty in the bigger picture. May we remember to pause and notice all the big and all the small, that is all around us. Imagine the glory that’s waiting for each of us in all of these gifts, yet unopened.