Harper, The Riptide

I was in Hawai’i last week visiting my childhood best friend, Steph, who gave birth to her first baby ten months ago. Her daughter’s name is Harper, and you’d smile as big as she does if you met her. She has dimples under both eyes that forewarn of the heartbreaks she’ll cause, and the size of her cheeks almost convince you that her DNA transcribed something to the effect of squirrel-storing-nuts.

Harper does not sit still and explores with the curiosity of Steve Zissou. She picks up everything she finds, and in order to experience an object of discovery to its fullest, she puts it in her mouth. (Yes, Steph has already performed kiddie heimlich once.) She crawls in the dirt and sand, smears food all over like it’s a work of modern art and repeatedly practices the new sounds that she’s learned to make with her mouth.

The other day at the beach, Harper was living life large by raising both of her hands up as high as she could in the air and then pouncing them down onto the sand with an excited squeal. We were at shore, and she loved when the tide would come in to cool her off. She also had no idea that a riptide could suck her back into the ocean, which is why Steph was close by to swoop her up.

After watching Harper play at the beach, I realized that there is something so beautiful in her unawareness. Harper doesn’t notice everyday dangers, which is why motherhood really is a full-time job, but she also cannot grasp unimportant details that many of us tend to dwell on. Whether you’re outwardly beautiful, whether you have acne scars or cellulite and whether your teeth are straight or yellow, she only sees you as human (or creature?) and craves but your smile, love and attention. She has no idea that her beach bag is from Pottery Barn Kids, and her only interest in my trendy, Ray Ban Clubmasters is to grab them off my face and throw them in the sand. She doesn’t mull over what you’ll think about her when she makes ungainly, excited movements with her arms or unorthodox sounds with her mouth; she exists purely and messily, as Harper.

So I was thinking that as much as our biggest fear at the beach would be for the riptide to take her away, I feel like she is a bit of a riptide, herself. And she’s taking me, at least a few steps, away from the stuff that doesn’t matter. She has reminded me that hollow trappings of material North America, that all things physical and superficial, are cheap substitutes for some of the things that really matter: love, relationships, and unadulterated yet messy fun! And once again, I see why the wisest of the wise tell us to be more like children.

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