You got to leave a tender moment alone. ~Billy Joel
‘Mom, let me see your phone.’ My middle unhooked her arm from around my waist to square up her fingers like a frame around an enormous patch of flowers in every color there is. I know what she’s doing. She’s my artist and her eye can’t not see beauty whether sitting right on the surface or by the interesting way she captures it with the camera. We’d just been walking with matching slow strides, arms loosely around each other, sipping in the the sights and sounds of a roadside farmer’s market. Tied together in this minute, we were both witness to only the present.
And this felt like a gift, pure and simple.
I knew the untethering work of the camera: the means (phone) to get to the end (picture) and in the end we will flick through and admire the clever angle of the photograph and drop the gift we hold in our hands. I consider how a simple post divides the attention between this world and that one on the tangly worldwide web, floating our attention out in space like a balloon from solid earth.
‘Mom? Your phone?’
I grab her arm and fix it around my waist once more, ’No. Let’s savor just this moment and be right here where we are.’
We dropped easily back into our slow rhythms and only broke to pet the lamb’s ear and smell the honeysuckle.
‘Do not post that, Mom!’
Catching a silly moment with my boy like a fish on a hook, his words caused me to look up from my prize camera roll.
I give him the words although I honestly can’t say if I had caught the moment to post or the moment had caught me and I might have posted it. Or was this one of those moments just for us?
Sometimes I can’t remember any more.
If a tree falls in the forest and a person has a moment and no one else hears it, did it make a sound? I ask this question to no one while rinsing the dishes to load the washer. I am disturbed at my reaction to a phone call that just popped one of my tires and left me wobbly on the shoulder of my feelers. Eyes still blurry through the leaking tears, I pulled up my Voxer app to…what? Vent? Have my girls rally and validate me? Be seen and known? Distract myself from the hurt?
Who exactly do I think needs to witness to this moment?
I scratch at a splat of dried egg on the nonstick pan with my thumbnail and hear myself answer, ‘Me.’
And I bore witness by sweeping and praying and scrubbing and praying and dusting. The afternoon was hidden and holy and I was wrapped in a peace I couldn’t get from my app. I consider the gaps of presence and prayer even as I hear the ping! of a new text and feel my brain squirrel in reaction.
Once again, I think how I must have been born too late in this century.
I wear aprons and can pickles and wish the phone was still stuck to the wall by its own spirally umbilical cord. I have trouble adjusting to this new world. I find myself wishing my kids would know a time it was easier to be present and wonder if this will become an old luxury…like being bored outside on a hot summer day.
‘Who are you sending that to?’ My husband leans over to ask in my ear. We are typically selfish with our time with each other and keep a big fat DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door to our getaways.
‘Just to Gavin. He would love this view.’
I can hear the wink in his voice when he says, ‘No. Let this be just for us.’
His words are a hundred butterflies taking off in my stomach at once.
It’s just me and him alone in a sea of people and it feels like I am holding something tender and special in my hands.
And I tuck away my phone and also this moment as my favorite.
If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it. -Sean O’Connell, Secret Life of Walter Mitty