When I come into OCMS, I walk. It's about 40 min (2.5 mi) from where I live, and even though I walk down the Banbury Road, once you're past Summertown, you can look down the road and enjoy the changing foliage.
As an introvert, my favourite season is autumn, of course: deep, rich colours, not the inappropriate gaudiness of spring blossoms; the quiet after the rowdiness of summer; misty cold mornings; nights made for introspection and intimate chats drawing in, with luminous moon and stars like ice chips in the sky; the ethereal, mellow northern light hinting at Sidhe around the next corner.
But no matter what the season, it's 40 minutes of thinking/imagining time, with loads of opportunity for people watching and precious moments.
This morning was one such morning. My walk takes me through an underpass and into a neighbourhood on the other side of the ring road, which I need to traverse to make it to the Banbury Rd, from where it's a straight shot down to work. Today, as I turned into the final street leading up to the Banbury Road, I found myself slowing down to relish an unfolding scene that was probably ordinary to those enacting it, but was endearingly precious to those of us who chose to watch.
A mother was walking her two children and the dog to the bus stop at Squitchey Lane (yes, I know the vast majority of you don't know where that is, but I LOVE THE NAME and had to slip it in). The little boy was 5-6, I'd guess, with straight brown hair, remarkable because of its juxtaposition to his 3-4 yr old sister's riot of Nicole Kidmanesque bright red curls. Mum was walking the dog, occasionally holding young hands as needed; but mostly, the wee ones wandered about 5-10 feet in front of/behind her.
Ordinary, right? Not usually something that you'd take notice of whilst walking along the street. But this scene made my heart melt straightaway.
They were holding hands.
Not because he was supposed to hold little sister's hand, either; it was clearly the most natural thing in the world for them. She absolutely adored her big brother and the feeling was clearly mutual. When she fell behind, as 3 yr olds are bound to do on their short legs, he looked round semi-anxiously to see where she was, and when I was within two feet of her, he looked at me to make sure I wasn't a threat. She immediately ran forward to him, took his hand again and they carried on.
I was behind them for about 7 minutes and couldn't stop smiling. Mum would occasionally take their hands - once she took the little girl's, brother faithfully holding the other and once took each child by the hand. As soon as she let go, they came back together to hold hands again.
I nearly laughed out loud at one point as little sis put her arm round big brother's waist and his arm went naturally around her shoulders and at another when, at her behest, he swung her round, to her great amusement.
They adored eachother and I couldn't help adoring them.
What nearly broke my heart was that Mum didn't seem to notice. She would look back, mildly irritated, chivvying at them to hurry along, or snapped for the odd minor offence (that I hadn't even noticed). I understood she was harried, that she was trying to get him to school on time AND walk the dog, that she sees them ALL the time, and the magic of who they are and what they do is something she sees every day.
But that kind of love? Everyday it may be, but it's pure magic. Had they been the usual squabbling siblings, I'd have rolled my eyes and walked by quickly, as would any number of the other pedestrians they passed. Instead, we slowed down, we smiled, and no few of us absolutely melted into a puddle worthy of the 2007 floods. Those of us who saw those little ones loved just a little bit more today.
I wanted to stop their mother and say, "LOOK. SEE your children, your little ones. SEE how amazing they are; how much they love eachother. DON'T miss this; revel in it. Too soon, they will be 16 and 13, and this will be gone forever. Hold this close, nurture this bond. Hold them even closer."
I didn't, of course. But perhaps we all need to learn to slow down and look at those we love with the fresh eyes of the passing pedestrian and remember just how amazing they are. We need to nurture those bonds, revel in every moment, stop chivvying and wanting them to be or do something else.
Otherwise, one day we'll wake up to find that we've missed the real moments that were so much more incredible than the ones we thought we wanted.