My wife and I switch who’s on and off at night when we take care of our son. Some nights, she’s out exercising or seeing a friend while I’m chasing our toddler around the living room. And other nights, I’m writing or cooking or having dinner with someone while she’s bathing him.
I like to write on the nights when I’m on not looking after him. But occasionally, the sound of joy leaks down into the basement and draws me up. It sounds like giggling, sometimes her, sometimes him, and sometimes both. If it’s both then I have to go see.
And this one evening it was during his bath. I opened the door and there they were in a surreal and perfect moment: she was blowing store-bought bubbles into the bath. They were landing on his skin, and he was reaching out to grab them, and then they’d pop. And he’d say, “pop!”
How mysterious it must be for the child with bubbles. To be able to see something, to want to touch it so much, and then it’s gone. It’s gone because you touched it. You can’t even feel what it felt like. It’s just a memory now, so quickly, its quiet echo reverberating in your mind.
He’d pop the bubble and look around for more, my wife being happy to oblige.
The bathtub is his school house and these are his lessons. My wife figured out that he became entranced if she held a bucket over him and poured down a stream of water so that it was just in front of his face. He’d reach out and try to grab it, but just like with the bubbles, there was nothing to hold on to. You would think he’d be frustrated, but that innate wonder all children have eclipsed any potential frustration.
I learn so much about living when I watch him play. All at once a student, a teacher, a vibration, and a flicker.
In a very short time, months perhaps, this bubble popping and stream of water inquiry will become like the bubbles themselves: gone but remembered fondly through their quiet echo, a thing we could marvel at in the moment but could not contain even if we tried.