When I was growing up I spent a lot of time in cars. Most of our extended family lived in another part of the province, so we drove back and forth from where we lived to where they lived. A lot.
In those days there was no such thing as a vcr or dvd player in the universe, let alone in the car. So my sisters and I passed the long car trips by playing, fighting, puking (that was mostly me), or just looking out the window.
I spent hours of my childhood looking out a backseat car window as some of the most spectacular scenery in the world whizzed by my formative eyes.
I know I was born with an inclination toward visual thinking, and with an innate appreciation for that which can be seen. But I also believe that my love of beautiful sights was nurtured and honed as a result of being allowed to stare at things without anyone judging or caring. Long car trips gave me the gift of noticing the glassy slickness of wet rocks, the lushness of moss on tree trunks, the sheer joy of soapy froth on a churning river.
J. and I have taken quite a few car trips with our little experience sponges, and only once did we allow ourselves to use a portable dvd player a friend insisted on lending us. I recall feeling a deep guilt and sadness as over enthusiastic cartoon characters filled their little heads as we drove through a canyon so breathtaking it feels holy.
After that trip I told J. I never want dvds in the car again. I want my kids to see the trees, and the river, and the mountains that look exactly like they did when I traveled the same roads as a child.
J. readily agreed.
At this point Z. seems to be emerging as the more visual twin (this could switch, we are constantly delighted by how a seemingly set trait in one will suddenly ease away from that one and pop out in the other).
A few months ago we were nearing the end of a long road trip, just hitting the outer edges of the biggest city in our province, when Z. began to laugh deep from her belly. I said: "Why are you laughing, honey?" And she said: "It's so beautiful! It's so wonderful!" I looked back to see her taking in the traffic, the mountains, the signage...and she was right there, in the centre of pure joy.
A couple of weeks ago we were in the bathroom, getting ready for a bath. I was hurrying the kids into the tub, but Z. said, firmly, "No, Mumma! Not yet." Her tone made me curious as to what made her so resolute. I saw that she was looking deeply at a painting on the wall. And she was in it. She was right inside that painting. I knelt down to her level, and I said: "What do you see?" She broke her gaze from the painting, looked me straight in the eye and said: "It's beautiful, Mumma."
I am so overwhelmed with how beautiful she is that I can sometimes forget that she also can be overwhelmed by beauty. It is my job to make sure, as she develops more language and this cynical world does its best to erode her wonder, that I am always the one who brings her back to that place of pure understanding that she felt in the car, and in the bathroom, when she saw beauty, and she let it fill her up.