I entertained the notion for a fleeting moment as we drove past one of our favorite walking trails. I almost pulled into the parking lot, but I didn’t. Too much work to do at home. But as we passed, my heart ached. Last year I would have stopped. But life now was fast-paced and demanding. I drove on.
It had been one of those days when life shifts on an axis, from great news to bad news all within hours. Circumstances roar like ocean torrents, and you sink beneath the waves, resurfacing for a moment and searching desperately for the illumination of that beacon on shore. Then they overtake you again. Up, down, up, down again.
But today I was fortunate. And my five-year-old son pointed my eyes toward that light. Ten minutes after I neglected the beckoning trailhead, we pulled into our own town, my mind awhirl with tasks to do as soon as the boys went down for bed. But my heart told me otherwise—that this wasn’t right. I should have pulled into that trailhead.
“Do you guys just want to grab some snacks at the store and go to the park?” I asked the backseat. And what little boy would say no to that? I thought I was killing time. Their Daddy wouldn’t be home for another hour or so anyways. But unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t killing time—I was stretching it. Preserving it. Setting it into stone. I gave them a couple of options for playgrounds, but this was the moment that my boy directed me back to shore after a discouraging afternoon.
“How about the sand by the water?”
I knew exactly what he was talking about.
“I remember walking there!” It was my four-year-old speaking up this time. I pictured us, a year ago, him only three, and us strolling along the lake.
“I didn’t like how long we walked.” Zeke, my oldest added.
“I remember we found a golf ball!” I could picture my middle guy, Ellis, pulling the small ball out from underneath the water surface. “Really?” I asked him, “You can remember that?” He went on to describe it in detail, this yellow golf ball. I pulled into the parking lot for the beach. That little golf ball on the beach, during an unassuming summer afternoon, had sure left its mark on him.
For over an hour I sat there in the grass, listening to their laughter as they ran in and out of the chilly water. The sun slowly dipped below the snow-capped mountains behind the lake. My youngest boy, Willy–his white curls shimmered in the sun’s remaining light as he ran circles around a large Elm tree standing tall beside the sand. Slowly my boys made their way down the shore away from me, then meandered back. Again and again and again.
“I know what we can do, Mom! We can draw in the sand!” Zeke bent low, placing his finger into the sand, running zig-zag patterns backwards, creating art as he went. Two-year-old Willy ran back and forth on the sidewalk in front of me, a grin spread across his face. He tripped and his toddler hands hit the pavement hard. He began to cry, but then rose back to his feet, wiping his hands against each other, and ran on into the sand. He plopped down on his bottom and stared, smiling into the sunset. I watched. And as I did, the day’s worries faded right along with that sunlight. Tomorrow that sun would rise again, and with it, new mercies. Enough mercies.
By the time we packed up, and I strapped boys–sopping wet and sand-covered–into carseats, my heart was light. No longer weighed down by the day and its unexpected twists, but freed—because we let time be what it wanted to be.
Earlier that evening, I drove past that trailhead because work hovered. Anxieties crowded. Time felt rushed and limited and entirely not enough. But my boy brought us to that beach, where time was set free. He sat next to me in that grass, wet shorts and chilly, goose-bumped legs. “I am just cold and need your love.” he told me as he snuggled close. I placed my arm around him. Time could be spent no better way. “We should come here more ‘oftenly’” he told me as we had loaded up the car. And he was so right.
This place where time is stretched and savored and slowed and cemented into our legacy.
Yes, my boy. We should come here more oftenly.