I’m sitting here in the silence of the morning, looking at my son, my daughter, and my nephew, all seated quietly on the living room floor, heads cocked, eyes focused on the television set. They’re watching Max and Ruby. Personally, I can’t stand the show, but they’re engrossed and they’re quiet, so for now it’s my favorite.
The ages are close but not exact: Ella is 5, Joey (my nephew) is 4, and Jon is 2. They play well together, and right now are watching TV well together. Their faces are still small and round and soft, none of the hard lines of worry breaking the surface. The sunlight that’s creeping in through the window highlights each one’s hair in a different way: Jon’s still has the ethereal glow of baby fuzz; almost every curl on Joey’s head is visible; and Ella’s natural tones stand out in a way that makes me wonder if Rachel is secretly having the Kids Cuts people highlight the girl’s hair.
The quiet moment has passed – they’re rolling cars and teasing each other now – but for that brief window, there was a beauty present that made me understand why ancient artists depicted angels as chubby toddlers. The innocence with which they look upon the world (even bad kids’ TV shows) is captivating and makes an adult who’s willing to slow down and just watch them homesick for a world to which he’s never been, but remembers all the same.
But it’s not just their looks that are beautiful. Their tiny voices are verbal snowflakes – soft and light, capable of making you tingle when they land on you just right. I hear my song singing a song to his beloved trucks and most of it is just babble, there’s a contentment in the music. Just now, something happened on Max and Ruby that put Max in peril (or so the ominous music tells me) and all three turned to the TV, let out a soft gasp, and Ella whispered “Ooooh, Max.” The boys just uttered various coos and grunts, sounds that, by the time their bodies finish developing, will eventually sound like the deranged cries of howler monkeys. But for now they sound like baby pigeons.
Of course, all of this softness and innocence is predicated on the fact that they’ve only recently awakened. Now they’re getting warmed up and the angelic exteriors are giving way to the sugared-up demons within. In fact, Jonathan just sent an entire bowl of Honey-Nut Cheerios skittering across the floor. Now, he’s eating them off the floor. I should be doing something about this, I’m sure.
Now someone just passed gas. I won’t name the culprit, but the giggles over the fart have prompted even more flatulence. My wife has joined the party too, so the mood has changed. Before Rachel joined us, I was like Jane Goodall, blending in without drawing attention to myself, getting to see the private dynamics of the species. With Rachel, I’m now another adult to fetch their cereal and juice when they demand it. Jonathan is now showing off for Rachel (jumping up and down, spinning in circles to classical music) which does not bode well for when he’s older and tries showing off in front of girls his age.
He will find they are not as receptive as his mother.
Now that the mood is broken and the sun has flooded the room, the day can officially begin. We can decide what we want to do today, get ourselves ready, and enjoy the laughter that will come from time together.
But I might just sneak out early tomorrow morning to watch these kiddies in the midst, and savor the fleeting beauty we humans have when we’re young, a beauty we spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture. Life needs more moments like this.