I pulled out all the small hats and toboggans, and I gathered together a conglomeration of mismatched gloves hoping to find suitable mates for winter-weather play. Living in the south, my children didn’t get to see snow much, and to say they were excited would be an understatement. I can categorically say I wasn’t near as excited myself, and I would have been just fine and dandy to sip coffee from the couch, gazing out the window at the white, powdery scene before me. But my six year old had pleaded, “will you come out and play with me, mom?”
So shortly thereafter I stood in the chilly air, and I was quickly reminded how much I adored summertime. I just knew we wouldn’t be able to stay out there long, especially the thirteen month old, and I winced as she plopped down into a pile of melting snow. The fact was with snow came sodden mittens, puddles of water tracked into my foyer, and coats scattered about in a fit of glee. It took twenty minutes to wrap everyone up for the frigid elements, and only five for one of them to start saying, “I can’t feel my hands,” or “I’m ready to go inside.” Perhaps, I thought, I could get a little picture before everyone froze to death, especially me.
Suddenly I felt a thud on my back, a spray of snow erupted around me, and a cascade of jubilant giggles echoed across the yard as my six year old called out over her shoulder, “I betcha can’t catch me!”
I was quite comfortable rooted to my spot on the patio, but something inside me wanted to give chase, and so I did. “I’m gonna get you!” I cried out as I ran.
Her laughter filled the air, and puffs of our collective breath rose into the air as we bolted about in circles through the snowy back yard. We attempted a snowball fight with snow that was too powdery yet to pack, but it didn’t matter as we tossed handfuls of loose flakes in each other’s direction with the passion of playfulness.
She shrieked with excitement as I ran up on her tail, and she whipped around quickly to face her attacker. Then as my firstborn met my eyes I stopped in my tracks, unable to throw the snow that rested in my oversized gloved hand. I was arrested by her gaze, and the radiance of her bright, baby-blue eyes held me in their magic spell. Her gap-toothed grin beamed with child-like wonder, and a countenance of joy shone upon her cheeks. I was in awe at that moment by the beauty of her wind-chapped cheeks, and even her pink, upturned nose was a sight to behold. Had I not feared that it would somehow distract me from the brilliant moment before me I probably would have snapped a photo, but at the time I simply took a memory shot. I traced her every feature upon my brain, I folded it up like a piece of paper, and I pressed it between the pages of my heart.
I want to remember this.
Right then, right there. The look on her face, the way her laughter made me feel alive, the love for me that I could see in her eyes. I never wanted to forget it. So many days I focused my attention on schedules, to-do lists, and the things I had yet to accomplish. I finished the day with a kind of self-inventory, and many times I came up lacking. I looked at what I had left undone, the moments that caused me regret, and the mountain of never ending chores. So many days I missed the forest for the trees, and the next thing I knew the newborn was having her first birthday, or my firstborn was losing her first tooth. So many firsts gone in a flash, and when I looked back fondly what would I remember?
Would I remember how many hours the kitchen sink stayed empty, or how the baby grinned that mischievous, two-toothed smile when I caught her doing something naughty? Would I look back on memories of how many times a day I swept the floor, or would it be the particular musical quality of my four year old’s voice when she said, “you’re de best mommy in de hough wide wolld!” She wouldn’t always talk like that, you know?
I want to remember this.
I wanted to remember the important things, the fleeting things, the things that refused to stay put before me. The growing things, the perfectly imperfect things, the messy, wonderful, lovely lot of it. I wanted to pick up my squeaky middle child, who often cried over insignificant occurrences, and I wanted to put her in my pocket. I wanted to keep her little, and keep her always wanting to cuddle with mommy, the way her little head fit perfect up against my chest, or nestled in the crook of my arm. I wanted to remember that. Every. Single. Detail of that. Etched into my memory banks like initials carved into a tree.
Despite how crazy, exasperating some days were, despite how my patience might wear thin, or how at the end of the day I just wanted little people to stop clutching onto me. Despite all that I knew this one very important detail. I loved it. My children were the air I breathed, and sometimes when the light caught their faces just right, or when I watched them sleeping, or when I was mesmerized by the way the dim sunlight reflected off the white snow into their brilliant, joyful eyes, in those moments I knew I was standing witness to some of the greatest happenings on this planet. I was privy to the unfolding of the greatest story ever told, and I wanted to remember every lovely detail.
I want to remember this.
May I always take the time to notice the beauty before me. May I be quick to smile, slow to anger, and even quicker to give chase when my child says, “betcha can’t catch me!” May my focus be on what really matters, and maybe I can remember not to sweat the rest. One day the rooms will be quiet, the to-do list will have dwindled, and in those moments may I be able to play fully the sweet memories of precious years gone by.
This article originally appeared at BrieGowen.com.