By Laura Moore

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I saw them at 4 p.m. when I drove by to pick up my son:

Hair styled, skirts brightly colored, long stem wine glasses tucked into their fingers.

They were laughing the sort of head back, chin up kind of laugh that seems to always accompany barefoot feet, sun-kissed shoulders, open-field turns and violets.

My heart burst just looking at them. I wanted to spin around the block, cruise back on by and steal another glimpse of their sandals pressing against the grass and their eyes catching the final few rays of the day and their cheeks squeezing together like accordions, moving in and out as their ideas leaked into the air and their ears happily enjoyed them.

But I kept going. 

I had a son to pick up. 

I had dinner idling in the crockpot and a dog walk to squeeze in before bedtime. 

And so I carried on with my day. My son squealed when I walked in and I wrapped my arms tightly around him. We gathered his things and headed home, headed back to the kitchen, back to our evening routine.

The women were still there when we passed, and when I saw them, once again, I wanted to stop. I wanted to indulge in their indulgence. I wanted to understand what inspired them. No one--at least no one I see every day--does what they were doing. No one pulls out a lawn chair, a table and a bottle of wine and goes out front. No one dresses up to the nines just to take refuge five feet front their front door. No one sits there, for everyone to see, sipping and laughing and sipping some more. 

I want to be like them, I thought. I want to throw a Wednesday afternoon celebration. I want to pause the world. I want to sit in the front yard and enjoy good company without a care in the world.  

Instead, I pulled into my driveway, I closed my garage, I scooped out dinner and we ate it: chicken and vegetables and a little bread. 

"Do you want to go on a walk?" I asked my son and my dog when we finished, and Finn wagged his tail and Z clapped his hands and the next thing I knew we were strapping on a leash, hooking into a stroller and weaving through the neighborhood, moving as quickly as we could so we could return in time to greet my husband when he got home from his meeting.

When we finished our loop, I decided to take a detour home.

"Let's go this way," I said, turning the stroller, and I led my crew back to our street, back to the stretch of road where those women were sitting and laughing and sipping wine earlier that day. 

I hoped they'd still be there, and sure enough, when we turned the corner, I could see them in the distance. 

"That looks lovely," I told them when I got close enough to speak. 

And they turned to me, raised their glass and smiled. 

"So does that," the older one said, "You probably just finished dinner and now you're out with your baby and your dog for an after-dinner stroll. That looks lovely."

And I glanced down at the wide-mouthed grin on little Z's face, and at the sweet pant coming from my dog's little mouth, and I breathed in the finally-warm air and took note of my bare shoulders and good health. 

"Yeah," I said, turning back to the women. "It really is pretty lovely, you're right."

Then I leaned down and I kissed Z's head, right on top of the ray of sun skimming across it. And I ran my hand through Finn's fuzzy ear and I looked down to my phone, sitting in the cup-holder

"I'm on my way," my husband wrote and my heart felt full.

"I hope you ladies have a wonderful night," I told them as I left. 

And when we got home, I turned around and paused on our front porch. I asked Finn to sit beside me. Then I pulled Z loose and I swung him around over my head. 

Both of us smiled.

Both of us grinned. 

Both of us laughed the sort of head back, chin up kind of laugh that always accompanies barefoot feet, sun-kissed shoulders, open-field turns and violets.

And it really was, honest-to-God, lovely.

 
 

By Laura Moore

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When I say my son screams, I don't mean he surrenders a polite little yelp appropriate for someone who is 30 inches tall. 

I mean he reaches into the deepest boughs of his body, and bursts into a show-stopping, glass-shattering screech that causes everyone within yelling distance to stop and stare.

Most of the time, it isn't a mean scream. He isn't red-faced, foot-stomping mad. He isn't catapulting tears from the rims of his eyes. He isn't waving his fists and lowering himself into the "I can't believe you're not giving me what I want" squat.

He is screaming because people laugh. He is running through halls, raising his arms, opening his chest and shrieking fearlessly until he has everyone's attention. Then he claps his hands, laughs and shrieks again. Sometimes he runs into circles of strangers, screams and looks up at their open jaws--making sure every last one of them is paying attention--before continuing his regiment, waiting for them to say how cute he is, waiting for them to laugh, waiting for them clap back. 

Invariably they do. 

And his huge, open-mouthed, eight-tooth grin splits across his face shortly thereafter.

See, this process thrills him to no end. He loves the attention; he craves it. Unafraid of strangers, unintimidated by people who are much older and taller, and curious about new spaces, our little Z is fascinated by how the world works, and excited to have discovered the fact that his voice has the power to stop it, to make people listen, to inspire them to smile, to get them to drop their guard, to wave their hands like a child.

Worried about disturbing the peace, we tell him to stop each time he does it, but something inside of me always feels bad when we do. In a world where he is so tiny, a world where he has no words--at least none that he uses regularly enough to count as vocabulary--that show-stopping scream is the only power he has.  It's his only means to get others to listen, to change the mood, to shift the tone, to pause life, to reach out, to make friends, to make people happy.

And that is what he does time and again when he locks eyes with others, when he flashes his two bottom teeth, when his dimples sink into his plump little cheeks and his blue eyes glimmer like sapphires. He, and his horrendous shriek, light up even the saddest of rooms, and as I watch him, as I see him pull out the charm, as I run--two steps behind him--and observe the way his tiny little self fills up the world, I can't help but imagine who he will become. I can't help but wonder which words will follow his scream. I can't help but fall in love all over again with his sweet, little soul.