Living in the Present and Embracing the Gift
Thirty years ago, when I encountered Robert Frost’s divergence in the road, I took, with trust and trepidation, the path many mothers before me had taken. It led me to a place where, in the words of Elton John, “I was everything and nothing all in one.” It took me to a place that confined yet liberated me. The well-worn road led to a place that can’t be found on a geographical map for it is a place of the heart. It is a place called the “present” and it is a gift.
With the birth of six children in twelve years, life moved at an incredibly fast pace, picking up momentum with each successive child. As a full-time mother of six, I was thrust into the present, with no time for pondering the future or reflecting on the past. But living totally, completely and irrevocably in the present was a gift I had received from my children and it had its rewards. My days were filled with holy moments or “twinklings” – those brief intervals of time that endowed my life with meaning.
I remember one such “twinkling” when I saw the extraordinary in the ordinary, the miracle in the mundane. My then three-year-old daughter JoJo was on my bed with me while my 10-month old baby, Abbie, slept on my chest. The breeze of an unusually warm spring day blew through my room, billowing the curtains. I watched the reflection of the trees blowing outside in the large mirror above my dresser. The breeze blew gently. The birds chirped sweetly. The sun shone brightly, enveloping the room with light.
Light clarified the moment – the ‘twinkling.” JoJo and Abbie would never be this exact age again. They would grow and move on. We all move on. The wind softly touched the wisps of JoJo’s light blonde hair, insecurely held in the ponytail that had lasted since early morning. Her little nose wrinkled as she scrunched it up, smiling at me, her baby teeth showing in her beautiful smile. A look of peace, happiness, contentment, and joy shone on her petite face as she sat on the bed rail at the bottom of the bed, balancing herself with one leg securely on the mattress while she looked at me.
Abbie lay on my chest sleeping peacefully. Her little body rose and fell as my chest rose and fell with each breath. Her rhythmic breaths, slow and steady, one after the other, were the measure of our days.
We live in the present moment and the moment is good. To hold a baby close to your heart is to hold a little bit of heaven. It is to experience eternity in the moment – in the “twinkling.” It is the liberating feeling that comes when the place you find yourself in is the place you most want to be.
“It’s the liberation that comes from the sheer act of living itself,” is how mother and author Iris Krasnow describes it in her book Surrendering to Motherhood. “When you stop to be where you are, then your life can really begin.”
My life began in San Diego, California in 1985 when my first child, Jacquelyn, was born. Two more children, a boy and a girl, A.J. and Andrea, were born in Naples, Italy, and over the next eight years, Amanda, Joanna and Abigail were born in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Throughout the years, I resided in several different geographical locations, but after becoming a mother, I lived in the present moment, in a special place of the heart.
Living with these six children, totally and completely in the present, gave me opportunities I would have missed had I chosen a different path. When my children were little, they gave me the opportunity to travel in their world and explore again with innocent eyes the wonders of nature. As they collected flowers, rocks and seashells, they gave me the time to collect cherished memories. They bestowed on me the rank of supreme teacher, asking questions with the complete trust that I would have the answer. They presented me with the unique opportunity to read and study with them and experience again the joy of learning.
They gave me the chance to grow and mature, and learn the discipline of responsibility. They pushed me into becoming a better person as they looked to me as a role model and example. They gave me their skinned knees to kiss, their tears to dry, and their hands to hold. They gave me their laughter and their smiles. They gave me their love.
And love is a word that can’t be explained or defined; for words can’t capture beauty, and words can’t capture feelings, and words can’t capture the heart. Only love can. Love captured my heart. I surrendered to the needs of my children and found freedom in love, peace in the moments, and joy in the “twinklings.” I took the well-worn road that led me irrevocably to the present, and I wholeheartedly embraced the gift.
Lori Rosenlof Drake is the mother of six grown children and the founder and former Headmistress of Roseleaf Academy, which was the only girls’ school in eastern North Carolina. Her writing has appeared in Mothers Always Write, San Diego Woman, Daily Nebraskan, the Gaithersburg Gazette in Maryland, and the Daily Reflector and the Farmville Enterprise in North Carolina. The recipient of three Honorable Mentions in the Writers’ Digest National Competition, Lori is currently writing a book about her innovative school.