The sunset

by Amy Goodpaster Strebe

Last night I was reminded of the importance of being still and living in the moment by an unlikely person – my energetic four-year-old daughter.

It was past Abbie’s bedtime and I was seated at the computer in the hallway outside her bedroom. Abbie was having a hard time falling asleep. She would open her door to ask me this question or that – and I was quickly losing my patience and becoming annoyed.

From her window Abbie could see our friend Heidi next door and hear her dog Toby bark. “I see Toby mom,” Abbie exclaimed excitedly inside her room. “That’s nice Abbie – now go to bed,” I answered sternly.

A few minutes passed and her room was quiet. I was hopeful that Abbie had at last gotten into bed. But as soon as I could think this I heard the rustle and rattling of blinds and knew she was not in bed. I had a mental picture her standing on top of her rocking chair near the window to get a better view of the Jack Russell terrier. I opened the door and asked Abbie in a raised voice what she was doing out of bed this time.

“I’m trying to watch the beautiful sunset,” she said, now sitting perched on her window seat attempting to peer out between the small slats in the blinds. “Do you want to watch it with me, Mommy?”

At that moment it was like lightening struck and my state of mind was at once altered. Whatever it was that I was doing on the computer suddenly didn’t seem so important anymore. This is a moment, a voice said inside of me that was not to be missed. Abbie had at that instant awakened my senses and made me conscious of the moment – alive in all its urgency.

I stopped what I was doing at the desk and walked over to where Abbie was sitting on the window seat. I sat down beside her and she snuggled close to me, her head nestled in my chest. We looked across the street beyond the trees and our neighbor’s house where we could see the luminous golden shades of yellow turn into vibrant tangerine hues as the sun sank lower beyond the horizon. Abbie smiled, a child content in her own wonderment. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. I held her tightly, her face and hair damp from my tears. “Why are you crying, Mommy?” she asked.

Without waiting for a reply, Abbie sat up straight and looked up at me, her blue eyes iridescent. “You know God is everywhere,” she told me matter-a-factly. “He is inside of us. He speaks in us – like a drum,” she said. She tapped her chest gently with her little hand. “Do you hear Mommy – my drum?”

I just smiled, not quite sure what to say. “Let’s ask God if He wants to watch the sunset with us.” With that Abbie laid back with her head on my chest again and I quietly rocked her in my arms. We watched together as the sky began to dim and the clouds push the sun further below the horizon. Our spectacular sunset was fading ... but we were savoring every last taste of it as if it were made of ice cream, melting away.

I hope that there will be plenty more sunsets that Abbie and I will experience together as she grows older. I don’t think, however, I will ever forget this particular sunset and what it taught me that warm July evening. Our time here on Earth is transient and we are constantly reminded how fragile and fleeting life can be. We are not guaranteed another day or another hour – only this very moment. We speed along the track behind the locomotive of progress, planning, ever busy at the tasks that must be accomplished in our daily, hectic lives. Though we cannot turn the machine off indefinitely, I was made aware of how important it is to silence it from time to time and celebrate the moment.

Abbie showed me that simple joys can derive from patience and putting aside – even for a moment – one’s self for someone else. I know Abbie will not be a little girl forever. This is our time right now – our moment and I must treasure and protect it. If I blink and stay the course, ignoring the stops along the way, I just might miss out on the best moments on this once in a lifetime journey.

 

© Amy Goodpaster Strebe

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem