This Is What Heaven Is Like
By J. L. Thurston
At four in the morning, the sun had not yet risen. I was tired, of course, but I had a hot mug of coffee and Moana streaming from Netflix. My little toddler was full of cuddles that morning and we sat together in my chair like we always do when she gets us up too soon. She munched a breakfast of animal crackers and Ovaltine and sang along sweetly in half-baby-babble.
When my husband got up for work I fixed him a coffee and sent him on his way with his lunch. We didn’t know that we were soon approaching one of the most difficult lay-offs we’d experienced. There’s never any warnings for those things. Instead, he hurried away, eager to get to the construction site with the guys.
It was my day off, and I looked forward to taking it easy with the little one. When the sun came up we went outside, instantly feeling the summer heat and humidity. We lingered in the dappled shade, playing in pools of sunshine that trickled through the wide oak leaves above. We fed the squirrels some left over walnuts from our banana bread.
I watched my daughter explore on her hands and knees, picking up every rock and twig with her chubby fingers and holding them up to scrutinizing blue eyes. Dirt piled up under her tiny fingernails and found homes in every crease in her hands. That day on the second summer of her life, the smell of sweet, warm, green summer filled her senses.
The neighbor lady emerged from her cornflower blue house. Bone-thin, nicely dressed, with white cotton hair, she remarked on how lovely my little girl was as she slowly made her way to her car. She gave us a cheery wave goodbye and drove off. She’d have a debilitating stroke in the upcoming fall, but none of us knew it at the time. The world was too perfect that day.
My daughter observed ladybugs nestled in the yellow blooms of dandelions. She let one crawl all the way up her arm, giggling uncontrollably. I was afraid she’d crush it and be heartbroken, but no, the insect knew enough to flutter its little beetle wings to safety.
Sweet tea and paninis for lunch. She helped me cut the bread and spread the mustard, licking the spreader with relish. Once her sandwich masterpiece was constructed, she set to the task of tearing it into little pieces and sucking the mustard off of everything. Before her much-needed bath, we decided why not paint and add to the colors now decorating her skin.
We got real goofy with the paint. We painted our palms with globs of every color to make smeary handprints. I put a big one on her tummy and she put one on my face. I ran her a bath before we got too out of hand.
Johnson & Johnson scented bubbles, warm splashes, clean baby. Her dad came home to giggles and that heavenly clean baby smell. She helped him unbuckle his boots and helped me in the kitchen to make him some food. She munched on a hard-boiled egg while I made potato salad. She sang, I tried to catch it on video, and we read three stories before bedtime.
I held her in her jammies while I rocked her. I was reading her favorite, Room on the Broom. She was as soft and warm as a puppy, heavily sinking into me as the rhymes took her mind to wonderous places. I breathed in the scent of her, the peace and vibrancy of her spirit. I had a powerful feeling then, so strong that it echoes in me still, and I know I’ll always come back to this one perfect day. I thought, “This is exactly what heaven is like.”
A perfect day. From the moment I heard her stirring on the baby monitor at four in the morning, to the moment I placed her inside her bed with kisses and Bear. This harmonious day, thoroughly joyful in all the small moments that are easily taken for granted, is the happy place I escape to. I’m not saying that I never had perfect days before I became a mother, but the love this kid brings out in me is more profound than any joy I thought I’d felt before. The bond between mother and child is the strongest thing in the world. At least it is in my personal experience. Nothing compares.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have a perfect day like that again, but I know that with my precious little one growing older, I’ll have many more moments of pride, and perfect bliss.