In life there are few moments of transcendence, or perhaps better said, there are few moments of transcendence that we recognize and commit to memory, and even fewer that are clear enough to shift our existential bearings and redefine our hopes.
When they do happen, they’re usually fleeting, they’re often mundane (given our inability to see the forest for the trees), and unless our emotions and spirit communicate, they’re usually glanced over so as to leave no trace of meaning.
For me the dark glass is lowered and transcendence is recognized almost always in the presence of my children, in particular aside my oldest daughter Claire (four years old). It happens simply, when undeterred joy emanates from my daughter and I feel partly to blame; when somehow my being her dad and being present in her life plays a role in it all.
It has happened at a pizza parlor as Claire watches her younger sister Maren do the funniest thing ever: refuse to keep her feet off the table. I’ve been wise enough to notice it as Claire is caught in a whirlwind of leaves, a recently raked pile behind her, the remnants of fall clinging to her hair and eyebrows.
Most recently it happened in the car, on the way to preschool. Claire and I have a tradition: We crank the volume up on the radio and act wild. We do this to get our crazies out—something both of us need to do before entering the real world where calmness and put-togetherness are most admired. A hit song from a few years ago comes on and we’re both dancing; we’re both unhinged. I look back and catch a glimpse of her, lost in the moment without concern. To make her laugh, I look forward and scream. I pretend the traffic cones on the side of the road are a brick wall and I’m about to hit them. I’m nowhere near them and I hit nothing but the explosion is real; it’s Claire in the back seat, head back, erupting with laughter; she’s like an infant guffawing for the first time at something that’s only funny in the beginning: a coo, a song, a bark, the tearing of paper, an older sister shaking her head inches away.
To see this innocent, explosive, in-the-moment elation was too much for me; I sobbed. I was happy. I was sad. I was nostalgic. I was worrying about the day she wouldn’t think a fake collision with traffic cones was funny anymore. I was in limbo.
I was no longer in the car. I was no longer on earth. I was outside looking in. I entered a realm that felt like home in a strange land. The meaning was clear and it was mine. And then I watched my Claire put on her backpack and walk toward school, a big girl.