You're four and eating pancakes that I cut up for you in the restaurant. You color your menu while waiting for them to cool off. I go about my habit of eating quickly, slopping eggs and hash on wheat toast. When I'm nearly done you begin, taking methodical bite after methodical bite. I don't know how hungry you are, but I don't expect you to eat all the pancakes they brought this morning. I'm sure we'll be ready to settle up and head on out of this busy restaurant soon.
We have a full day ahead of us. Mommy is at home painting, so you and I are going on a series of mini adventures that in a few years' time you'll know as errands and beg not to go. So I'll savor our slow pancake mornings followed by shopping because soon you hope I don't ask if you want to go get pancakes.
You eat every last pancake they bring, dipping your last few bites in syrup. This - syrup - is a new discovery for you. And now that you've tasted and seen how wonderful it can make breakfast, your morning delicacies will never be the same. You ask for more pancakes and more pancakes you shall have. I'll just sit and watch and talk, my meal long gone and your smile growing wider when you learn more are on the way. Please stay delighted by small things within my control. Let's not rush to that deeper part of life where you'll yearn for things I can't provide.
More pancakes arrive and we repeat the dance: me cutting while you color and then both of us waiting for the cooling off period. The restaurant is growing increasingly crowded now, the breakfast rush descending upon the diner that we were smart enough - and awake enough - to beat. I wish you'd hurry and eat the pancakes so I can dodge the strangers' stares as they wonder how much longer we could possibly be. After all, we have those errands ahead of us and very little margin to dally.
Last night we had a long conversation on the way home, talking about our cousins that live far away. "We'll go see them one day," I promised and then we went back and forth about how we'll get there, how big a plane has to be to take us across an ocean, what you get to eat and drink on plane rides that take all night, and where we'll get to sit. "One day," I tell myself. When you're bigger and more self-sufficient. Maybe when you can cut your own pancakes or pour your own syrup. "Think how we'll be living!" I say to myself as you continue to bask at the fact an airplane could fly all night long without stopping.
There are moments when I want the hurry up - to get to a place in life where you're older and wiser. Where you know things and can do things. Where it seems like the living can start. Me, just waiting for our real life to begin.
Silly me. There is no real life waiting out past the pancakes or the errands, the airplanes or the age. Life is here now and trying to speed it along has me missing it entirely. Like the fool who wanted to finish the race only to learn there was no prize there. The prize was the journey itself, the sights and sounds found only when you take time not to win, but to be. And he'd missed it all in the quest for speed.
So Paris can wait. Today we have slow pancakes and adventures ahead of us. You're learning what syrup tastes like and I'm learning how to be still and watch - not the other diners, but you. With a slow dip into the pile of syrup I've poured, I'm learning to soak up this life that is here in front of me now.
No more hurrying up just to beg things to slow down one day. I'll just let life develop at its natural pace, like those pancakes that need to cool.