Life without a mask
Today was a "girls" day for me and McKaylee. Landen was in school for most of the day and then headed to grandma's house this evening for a sleep-over, so it was just the two of us. We spent most of the day playing dolls and coloring pictures but I couldn't get around the fact that we needed to go to Walmart, so we packed up the car with snacks and toys and headed out. Traffic was awful, given that it was after 4pm on a Friday and McKaylee decided to take this time to ask me "What's that?" about three hundred times. She also created this wonderful game where she asked for a toy, insisted I take it back, then asked to have it again and on and on it went. As I fought through the sea of bad drivers, I could feel my frustration mounting as I wondered how necessary this Walmart trip really was. But being that we were more than half-way there, I decided to continue on. As I began searching for a parking place, I glanced back at McKaylee who was sitting happily in her car seat babbling about the birds that were chasing each other in the sky. The traffic hadn't bothered her, the 30 item grocery list that lie snuggly in my purse didn't frustrate her and she didn't even seem to notice that we had to park five blocks away from the entrance of the store. I scooped her out of the car, all bundled in her warm coat and hat and found myself in awe of her never-ending smile. In an instant, I felt envious of her joy, her amazing ability to enjoy life wherever we are, whatever we're doing. I started thinking back to the hard days and weeks she endured at St. Jude's. The constant sickness, the horrible drugs, her childhood stolen for so many months and I realized how much she deserves the happiness that she continues to find in her little life. For it's not the excitement of going to Walmart or the joy of spending an afternoon playing dolls with mommy, it's the freedom to finally just be a little girl that can do all of these wonderfully normal things. She lived so many months of her life behind a mask, having her hands constantly scrubbed with hand sanitizer, never being allowed to eat a crumb off the kitchen floor and yet she endured it with such grace. And now here we are, back to life as we once had known it and I've found myself so often taking the little things for granted. No more long nights in the hospital, no more tears from the constant nausea, no more days couped up in a hospital....my little girl can run free. So I walked into Walmart tonight with a different sort of list in my head; let's just make the most of it. So I let her walk beside the buggy, with no concern for time, just watching as she giggled at the teddy bears staring at her on the shelves and finding joy and laughter in everything she saw and touched. I let her linger down the aisles and ask every question she wanted to about the different types of food and snacks. I even let her carry around a puppy dog shirt that she fell in love with, simply because she deserves it. If she can find such joy in life then I want to make sure I find it with her. And I was delighted to take the time to just get lost in her world. Not that I could live everyday without rules or structure, but sometimes it's okay to just throw the list away and find an adventure instead; and that's just what we did. It might have just been a simple trip to Walmart but it was such a sweet time for the two of us together, doing something so normal and loving every minute of it. Sometimes I feel like I live my life behind my own sort of mask, shut off from the joy of the world around me, so caught up in what comes next that I miss what's right in front of me. I guess I figure, well, she took off her mask....maybe I should take off mine.