Spontaneity doesn’t come naturally to me.
My mind is linear and logical, sometimes to a fault. I live in the realm of the practical. Flying by the seat of my pants just makes me woozy.
Children do not understand this. To them, life is all imagination, curiosity, and magic. This makes a simple thing like going for a walk very problematic. Before we make it from our front door to our next-door neighbor’s driveway, we’ve already stopped to follow an ant trail, splash in a puddle, flick a roly-poly, pick clover flowers, inspect a rock, and torture a worm. When I go for a walk, I expect to make forward progress. It is, after all, called a “walk” and not a “squat.”
Most of my frustration as a mom comes from this conflict. I have a schedule to keep, my kids have games to play. I want to accomplish a task, they want to make a memory. I make a to-do list, they use it for a paper airplane. Hmm, their plans sound like more fun.
A few weeks ago I found myself subjected to a moment of forcible spontaneity. It was a fine evening, and my husband and I were loitering along behind the kids on one of their squatty walks. A fragrant, unseasonably cool wind blew about, carrying the easy sounds of summer to our ears. Children playing in the cul-de-sac. Training wheels on asphalt. A bouncing basketball on a nearby street.
Our neighbor was walking her dogs. She caught up with us (merely by walking at a normal pace), and we chatted under the fading sun. And then, without warning, the rain came.
A barrage of fat drops assaulted the earth, each one smacking the ground like a June bug on a windshield. Without a word of farewell our neighbor ran for cover, herding her dogs ahead of her. Squeals of surprise issued from the direction of the cul-de-sac. I may have squealed too, but I can’t be sure.
I seized the hand of my nearest child and bounded across the street toward our open garage as quickly as her little legs would allow me. I was vaguely aware of the sound of my husband’s laughter behind me. His levity was lost on me. I was already dreading the fallout: They’re going to track mud in the house. We’re going to need towels. I just mopped!
We reached the garage and stood there watching the rain rip through slanting rays of evening sun. Little Silas lost his head and dashed back out into the downpour. It was slippery work, but Grant eventually corralled him again.
A family on bicycles sped by, heads down, soaked to the bone, and still a whole block from home. We couldn’t help laughing. Then, to my horror, Grant suggested we go back outside. In that moment — winded and uptight and staring at my husband’s smiling wet face — it occurred to me that this might not be the end of the world. I heaved a relenting sigh and returned his smile. But I still wanted an umbrella.
The deluge soon diminished as summer showers do, and long after our neighbors had retreated into their homes we lingered in the strange afterlight. Venturing a little farther from the house under three umbrellas, we let our feet splash in the fast-formed puddles.
A step past the white ash tree the eastern sky came into view. And we received our reward: a double arc, end to end, bending bright color across the dripping sky. I’ve never seen one so radiant.
My God-given brain is programmed for planning and analyzing. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’m grateful for the gifts that come with the way I’m wired.
But you can’t argue with a rainbow. I could stay nice and dry and let the computer show me a picture of one. Or I could contort my body around in the window until I caught a glimpse of color through the dense foliage of the ash tree.
But that’s no substitute for sloshing along in soaked shoes, smelling the heavy air, and tracing wondrous beauty with your finger through the sky.
I couldn’t have planned anything better.