A New World

November 12, 2010
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The heat of the mid-summer sun baked the neighborhood lawns and the whitewashed houses almost to a crisp, and the unbearable temperatures were getting to my weary head. I had truck loads of work to be done – the laundry, the cooking, mowing the patch of dried brown that was supposed to be the lawn, cleaning the kitty litter and so much more…the list could go on and on. And then there was the tiring thought of having to go to work sharp at 6 in the morning first thing tomorrow. As I wiped the perspiration from my forehead, I glanced at Evan’s picture. His benign smile and exuberant eyes instantly made me happy. Then my heart writhed in pain. “How can I ever do this alone, Evan?” I sighed and held my husband’s picture close to my heart.

“MOM!” came the abrupt, squeaky cry that jerked me to my senses. Ethan, I thought, what on earth is my boy up to this time? Evaluating the urgency in his voice, I rushed to him as quickly as possible. Seeing my cute, little baby boy crouching on the ground and poking a snail with a twig assured me that it was, yet again, a false alarm.
“Ethan! What now?” I asked impatiently, the worries of making a living all on my own somewhat emerging as rudeness in my voice.
“It pops inside! It pops inside its house!” the enthusiastic 7-year-old squealed with joy and beamed at me.
“Enough, Ethan,” I explained strictly, “mommy has got a lot of work to do, and you should be studying now. Go to your room.”

He nodded and left. I felt relieved, but guilty at the same time. Every time, Ethan would call me away from work, and I rushed to him thinking that it might be an emergency, but every time it would be something really ordinary and simple – a snail on its way home, ladybirds, an old frog under some toadstool, sometimes even a clump of leaves! It’s not always easy to play along, and with all the pressures in your life, you wish like turning away. But knowing that this child lives on without a father, and that he dwells still in the lies you cook up to hide the truth – you just can’t turn your back.

It was 6 in the afternoon, and the sun still raged on in its intense left-over heat and humidity. The walls were already touched with golden orange, and twilight was imminent. But I wasn’t even done with half my work. I looked at the fat envelope of bills on the kitchen cabinet and slouched on the sofa, face dug in my hands. I was about to cry, but just then, Ethan cried out from the lawn again. What have I got to lose? I reasoned, and stepped out onto the patch of brown. I found the little boy standing in the middle of the lawn, head titled upwards and eyes gazing at the skies. I looked up as well. To my surprise, the skies were overcast with grayish purple clouds at the southern horizon, and the familiar gurgling and low grumbling of approaching thunder filled the surroundings. The air was thick with a muddy scent, and the wind was cold and refreshing.
Suddenly I knew.

“Mommy! It’s Rain! He’s coming! He’s coming!” Ethan jumped and shrieked with joy. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Almost reflexively, I grasped my Ethan’s hands and jumped and spun round with him. Barefoot, we ran round the lawn, racing with the wind to greet the rain. And the skies finally gave way to a rejuvenating burst of rain…the final slaying of the extreme mid-summer heat. We danced under the downpour of the pearly drops, our feet splashing in the mud puddles and our eyes tight shut with pleasure.

“Mom! Like this!” Ethan tugged at my shirt and gestured me to face the skies and open my mouth. His cheeks puffed up and reddened with freshness as he drank the sweet tears of the sky. Amazingly, I found myself giving it a try. And to my astonishment, I actually enjoyed that childish act. The water tasted unlike anything I’ve ever tasted: it tasted so different, so much newer. And the air was strangely sweet and exquisite.

“Mommy!” Ethan cried out, squinting as raindrops tapped his face, “this way!”
He tried to drag me to someplace, but I stood firm. He stopped and gazed enthusiastically at me. Again I felt like giving it a try, and I giggled as I followed his lead. All the while, in my head, I was thinking, what on earth am I doing?

He took me to the place where he found the snail. He was searching for something, and then finally bent down at a little rough shrub on the edge of our lawn. I was inquisitive. Then Ethan waved at me to come over.
“Look…” he whispered softly, gently lifting up a leafy branch and pointing at a snail. I found myself screwing my eyes: it was just a brownish snail sleeping away under some leaves.
“What about it?” I asked. Without uttering a word, Ethan poked the snail and goaded it out of the shade of the leaf. Instantly, as the rainwater sprinkled over the snail’s shell, the brown dirty mud was washed away, and what was revealed took my breath away. Vibrant shades of red, brown and burgundy on the same snail’s shell- in patterns of spirals, uniform dots and perfect lines and waves…
“Isn’t it beautiful, mom?” Ethan said wonderingly. I nodded dreamily as I stared agape at the unexpected show of colors from something that I had taken for granted to be brown, ugly and ordinary. It was like the unveiling of a canvas drawn my Mother Nature…

“Another thing!” chimed my baby, and again dragged me to the other edge of the lawn. This time I let myself go. “See?” he whispered close to my ear, pointing at a fat knot of dead wood – the remains of a tree we fell last summer. I tried hard to find out what he was indicating this time, but in vain. Then he nudged me to bend and look behind the gnarled wood: and there it was. I gasped as I glimpsed the tiny, bright golden daisies that had sprouted from the cracking grounds. We giggled and laughed together.
“See how they dance in the rain, mom” he said. Surely, I smiled as I saw how the rain drops made the little daisies bow and flail dreamily. The Daisy…the symbol of a new beginning, of a fresh start even when all around are murk, and woe and monotony. It was like Nature’s way of showing us never to lose hope, and never to stop dreaming.

All of a sudden, I was seeing Nature in a whole new light. All of a sudden, I was seeing the whole world through the eyes of a child. And I, too, shared the same fascination that Ethan was feeling at the birth of new discoveries. The only difference was, he was discovering them for the first time, and I was rediscovering all those through his vision…like finding again, a new way of looking at the simple, yet beautiful little details that life had to offer. A child, I realized, was closer to God than we could ever imagine.

The mass of clouds slowly drifted towards the north, and the rain left us cooled and invigorated. The sky was now a merge of the greenish darkness of night and the fading auburn of evening. The stars had emerged and now glinted like little silver gems over our home. I looked around the lawn, at my Ethan who was watching the stars, and then my eyes fell on the ground. As if by magic, there I saw little violets sprouting from the tiny patch of green grass at the centre of our lawn. It was as though the rain revived their buds and finally brought forth their bloom. Instinctively, I laughed with joy and carried Ethan to the flowers.
“It’s like magic, Ethan!” I giggled, “It’s like magic!”
Ethan looked surprised, and then he was ecstatic and jumpy. We both celebrated, but after some time, he stopped the Mexican hat dance and fell silent. He stared at the skies, the stars. My heart cringed inside. All of a sudden, I missed Evan, my husband, Ethan’s father, profusely. I wished he were here, so badly. And then, as if he just read my mind, Ethan motioned me towards the brightest star on the sky.
“There,” he said softly, “Daddy’s there isn’t he?”
I nodded, a film of tears clouding my eyes.
“It’s a beautiful place to live in, isn’t it?” he asked, “I’m sure he watched us having so much fun under the rain. You know mummy,” he continued, blissfully unaware of the truth that pained my heart every single day, “I think daddy told Rain to come down and let us play together, right?”
“Yes…” I replied wonderingly. For the first time, I felt such strong reassurance from the words of a 7-year-old.
“Daddy is watching over us, see?” Ethan said, straining to reach The Evening Star with his young, little hands.
“You know,” I said, “he really is…and he always will be.” The pain in my heart eased as I said this, and I hugged Ethan tight. Today, he had been more than just my baby boy- he had been my teacher, my philosopher, and lastly, my consoler. So strange to believe, but so true when you’ve actually experienced it yourself. I drew great comfort from the fact that my Evan was looking over our family from the silver skies- something that I had been teaching my child all along, feeling guilty that it was all a lie. But my own child actually taught me today, that what was thought to be a lie, was actually the truth in itself all the while. I was transformed into a child…believing and smiling at how my husband was looking after us even when he was not here with us.

I look back and I sum up all the lessons that I had acquired from a 7-year-old in one single evening. In our busy lives, we adults gradually, and inevitably, forget all the different, beautiful ways of looking at life and all the little things it has in store for us. We look at a daisy, and shrug and walk past; we look at a brown snail and smirk at its simplicity and ugliness. But do we ever strain to look closer- to see the majestic colors of that same snail’s shell? To see the meaning behind the golden radiance of the daisy?
That day, I learned, that when a child calls you to see something he finds so fascinating, so mysterious, you should go ahead and give it a try. To see the world through the eyes of a child, is like discovering a whole new world. And when he pats your shoulder and tells you not to worry, and that all is going to be okay, you should just close your eyes, and believe his words: all really is going to be okay.

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