Yesterday as I was leaving school, I came upon a young mother and her two little kids. They were in the parking lot, and I had to walk past them to get to my car. It was the end of a very rainy, very windy day, and the pavement was covered in wet brown leaves. The sky was dark gray and the light was fading. My first glimpse of the kids, from a distance, was of their shining white-gold hair. The little boy, maybe a first grader, was wearing a bright blue backpack, and had decided that instead of walking, he would inch himself along the railings that line the walk to the upper lot. His red sneakers were on the lower rail, and his hands were clinging tightly to the upper. Remember, everything was wet and slick. He was frowning in concentration, that golden head tipped forward to watch his footing. His tongue was tucked in a corner of his mouth, maybe to help him balance.
As I got a bit closer, I saw his tiny sister, who looked to be no more than two at most, running headlong down the walkway toward me. She shared her brother’s golden haired beauty, and she was an absolute vision in her pink skirt and striped red and gray wooly tights. She was laughing out loud as she streaked past him and grabbed at the railing beside his feet. “Up!” she shouted with glee.
Behind them came their young Mommy, smiling, but obviously tired. This was pretty late in the day, well after 5, and she must have been picking her boy up from after school daycare. As I approached, she said, “Oh, man, this will probably take us all day.” I thought she was going to scold the kids, or pick her daughter up and put her into her carseat. I was sort of disappointed, because it looked like those kids were having such fun. But as I passed her, she scooped her little girl into her arms, kissed her cheek, and carefully placed her tiny feet on the bottom rail. She stood back, smiling, as the two children slowly inched their way along the ten foot rail, toward the car.
I walked past, and up to my own car, more slowly now because I wanted to watch them. The boy was talking a mile a minute, in a rush to describe the raging river that he was pretending to cross. His sister kept sending out peal after peal of pure joy. And Mommy just smiled and nodded and waited patiently, watching them get wet and covered with soggy leaves.
All the way home, I talked to her in my head, wanting to find a way to commend her. Wanting to tell her that she was creating sweet memories that would last her whole life. Wishing that I knew her, so that I could say, “What a perfect moment that was!”
This morning, as I was reaching for my shopping list, I saw a magnet stuck to the refrigerator. It said, “Pay attention to the little things, for one day you will realize that they were the big things.”