Supper time with two active grandchildren is a challenge that can keep me hopping, especially when everyone wants something different. I’m always trying to be the organized one, keeping on task at all cost so we can efficiently finish and move on. I’m not a spur-of-the-moment kind of gal. Even so, in the middle of fixing Tacos and Quesadillas one October Sunday evening, I pointed out a particularly wonderful sunset to seven-year-old Megan.
"Megan, look. The sun’s going to catch the lake on fire."
"It is not. The lake is water. "She looked at me as if Grandma had lost her mind. Her sister, Nikala, intently watched the Disney channel and ignored us.
"I mean it. You want to see?" I turned the fire off under the Quesadillas and taco meat.
Megan looked out the kitchen window. "We can’t even see the lake from here."
"That’s right, but we can go to the lake." Lake Overholser was only a block away from the house. "But we’ll have to hurry if we don’t want to miss it.
"Megan looked at the food on the stove. "Right now, in the middle of cooking?"
"Sure," I said, thinking fast, not always my strong suit. "Everything will keep. Nikala, do you want to come too?
Nikala shook her head no, engrossed in her show.
"O.K. Go tell Grandpa we’ll be right back." I heard her yell at him as we left the house and just shook my head, not even surprised.
Megan and I jumped into the car and drove down to the lake. I parked and we picked our way down to the water’s edge so we could see without trees in the way. Grackles and Starlings chattered in the trees as they settled in for the night. A few gulls still soared close. One pelican flew home with a beak full of dinner.
The sky turned turquoise. Clouds shaded into coral, then gold then orange, each color more intense than the one before. The sun settled closer and closer to the edge of the earth. On the other side of the lake dark tree arms reached up to snare the sun on its way, trying to make the light stay longer. Finally the sun rested on the edge of the lake and set the sky and lake on fire. Fire crept across the lake until we were bathed in color, our skin rosy and glowing.
I picked up Megan, silent for once in her life, and wrapped her up with me in my fire-colored sweater. We cuddled together and absorbed colors into our souls, soaked in fire that didn’t burn and breathed in cool October air, scented with burning leaves.
Later, when we sat down to a supper that had to wait 30 minutes later than usual, Megan bubbled over with the light and colors and birds. Supper tasted even better than usual and the world didn’t end because I didn’t meet my schedule.
As nurses and as mothers and grandmothers, we’re programmed to meet schedules. Medications at this time, baseball tournament at that time, it can be really difficult to spur-of-the-moment do anything. But for our own mental health as well as that of our family, we have to find ways to fit the fun things around the have-to tasks.
I won’t say that the visit to the lake made me give up my task oriented ways and become a spontaneous person who always left supper on the stove at the drop of the sun. I won’t promise that Megan will be come a nature lover from now on. But Megan will notice a sunset now, or point out a Cardinal in the back yard. And so will I, I hope, pay more attention to the little things. Find those small joys that are not related to work issues.
I wouldn’t trade that few minutes bathed in lake fire with Megan for anything. I’d like to think I’ll remember to give in to impulse once in a while and catch one of those moments that never come again and hold it in my hand.