Back when this little guy was a tad bit younger than he is today, he used to “take pictures with his mind.” He’d put his pointer fingers up to his temples, lean down towards the object he wanted to focus on (typically a kitten or a flower), and snap his eyes shut for a moment. He would soon open his eyes with a satisfied look on his face and later return home to sketch and color what he observed.
A boy with his homemade sun scope, after observing the Transit of Venus in 2012
When I was his age (or a little bit older), I used to call this practice “making memories.”
I read it in a book once.
It sounded romantic. The idea that every moment was an opportunity to make a memory if only we stopped to notice it.
I would sometimes walk home from the bus stop, forcing myself to quit counting steps and skipping over sidewalk cracks, and look around instead at the scene on my street: The sun shining through the oaks and birch trees that lined the sidewalks. The children coloring chalk figures in their driveways. The woman opening and shutting the mailbox.
I’d stop and make a memory.
It was an experiment. Something that made me feel exotic and older. Only now do I realize that this was my first attempt at practicing mindfulness, of being in the present moment.
Now, as a mother, I realize that there is indeed something very romantic about being in the moment, and it’s not the making of the memory. It is the moment itself that is romantic — for it’s the space in which you truly experience love and joy. But, recognizing this in the moment itself is one of the greatest challenges of parenthood.
Oftentimes, instead of embracing the love and joy of being with my child, I get caught up in the awareness that I’m already a memory.
A reflection. A reverberation. A remnant.
And sometimes I panic that I’m not making enough good memories of me. Or that the memory of me will land him on the analyst’s couch or on the streets shooting up.
But this morning, hours after my picture-in-his-mind-taking son woke me up at 3 am to ask “Is it time to watch Venus?,” I found myself immersed in the 100% pure extract of love that comes only from being in the moment when it happens… and being aware of it.
There was a moment or two when my excitement almost got squashed by the unexpected falling boulders that often overwhelm us — the scope wasn’t working, the clouds were blocking the sun. And it’s a real challenge, to say the least, not to let them completely derail our original intentions.
But then suddenly the sun broke through from the clouds and lined up just as it should through the pinpoint of a dot at the top of the homemade cardboard box viewing scope and I shouted with delight, “There it is!”
There it is.
Did we see Venus?
No, not really. But we saw something. And more important, we all felt something. Together. In the moment. Exactly in that moment.
Proving the experiment a success.