We took an impromptu trip to Agua Caliente on New Year’s Day, the park’s name mocking us as we shivered in the 42 degree weather. The kids had been cooped up in the house for days because when you grow up in the desert, this is really cold. We only intended to drive around for a while but the kids begged us to let them out. Children rarely give obvious warnings that their energy is about to consume them. We took their urging seriously and found a park.
We made our way to the pond where the ducks eagerly greeted us until disappointment set in. We’d brought no bread and after only a few minutes, the ducks gave up and the kids were complaining. It was my idea to run around to keep warm. I took off like I was being chased by wolves and I could hear their tiny feet crunching dead grass in pursuit. They giggled and waved their arms like windmills, as if the momentum would help them catch me. I stopped dead in my tracks and as soon as they were within arm’s reach, I took off in a different direction. The air burned in my lungs, a reminder that I needed to do this more often.
As I zigged and they zagged, something caught my eye. It was silver and glinted in the sun. My mind registered that it was just a leaf but something tugged inside of me. Even as I resisted the urge to stop and pick it up, I knew that I would go back and find it. Out of breath and barely warmer, we collapsed into each other. I wrapped my arms around my little ones and touched my cold nose to their cheeks. They ran off to a new adventure and I retraced my steps.
I picked up the leaf and knew it was meant for me. Maybe it’s because I can’t believe that 42 is midlife or that I secretly thought I’d never age. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m just now figuring it all out and really starting to live. Maybe it’s because really living is different from how I always imagined it would be. Rough edges. Morning dew. Utterly common. Stunningly beautiful.