One of Kendra’s favorite movies is the Shawshank Redemption. It is a great story… well written and laid out, and the fraternal themes within the film make it all the more compelling to me. There are several memorable lines from that movie, but one in particular comes to mind when I find myself caught up in the frantic pace of things. The character Brooks made an observation in a letter to his friends at Shawshank that “The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.” His period of reference was Maine, in the 1940’s. If Brooks thought the string of automobiles up and down main street signified haste, he would surely agree that the speed of life has increased exponentially since then. Better technology brought quicker and easier access to information and people. Transcontinental and international travel is rapid and readily available to the general public. One can accomplish more in a day and from multiple locations than ever before. Since more can be done in less time, more must be done to fill the time. We continue to push the envelope. The quality and speed of information and access has increased. But as we hurry along to the beat of the world, I am not sure quality of life necessarily has.
I was in one of those hurries the other day… we were heading out for dinner before going into Phoenix to see the Christmas illumination extravaganza known as Zoo Lights. I had a plan, and timing was of the essence. I had figured that we could get to the restaurant and finish before the rush, then arrive at the zoo just after sunset and hopefully beat the mob that would be arriving after dark (I don’t like crowds. At all. It isn’t so much the people, it’s just that there are so many of them… and they get in my way…I digress.) We started out on track… I hustled everyone out of the house right at the desired time. I figured 10-12 minutes to the restaurant door to door and then all the pieces would fall into place. All was well.
Somehow, and I really cannot even recall how this came up, just a few blocks away from the restaurant we discovered that Dillon had forgotten his shoes… Yeah. Frustration began to set in. I could feel my firm grip on the schedule slipping away. I started calculating the time it would take to turn around, drive back home, find his shoes, and then get back to this point of the journey… I figured we’d get stuck at 2/3 of the lights each way. Kendra offered to drop the rest of us off at the restaurant, go back with Dillon to get his shoes, and then return to eat. I declined. It would only add to the slippage of time, too many unknown variables could enter the equation… I made a U-turn.
I sped homeward. The boys were in their respective places: Logan in the 3rd row listening to his iPod and reading; Ethan in the middle of the 2nd row in his car seat chattering; and Jaden and Dillon on either side of him alternately reading and playing with random remains of Happy Meal toys. Dillon extended his stocking-ed toes over the armrest periodically; taunting me with the reminder of the cause of this detour. I maneuvered swiftly through the traffic intent on making up as much time (safely) as I could. I was focused (Now, Kendra might try to argue that I was sulking, but that is just not the case… I was merely reflecting on the recent events and intensely working through a solution in my mind… just for the record).
We arrived home and Kendra hopped out to go find some footwear for Dillon (who was completely unconcerned about having forgotten his shoes). While we sat in the driveway, I kept running through the schedule I had laid out and it began to dawn on me why we were in the car together going out that evening in the first place. Embarrassed, once again, by my behavior, I let go of all my frustration (notice, I did not say, “stop sulking”). I decided to take this as an opportunity to start the trip over again and actually enjoy the time with everyone while we had the night together. Kendra returned with shoes and we were off once again…and that’s when I saw it.
Due North of us, just over the mountains (hills) in our sight line was a descending hot air balloon. It appeared very small at firs and seemed a great distance away. I pointed it out to the boys, and we spent the next several minutes spotting it out of windows as we made our way back toward the restaurant. It was growing larger and clearer in view. It was headed our way. Ethan had never seen one of these in “real life” before. His eyes were open bright and wide as he watched that orb float closer to us. He had an opened mouth grin plastered on his face as he watched in amazement.
The balloon still lied a good distance ahead of us, and it almost appeared that it was going to land in the middle of road we were on. My mind immediately jumped to thoughts of the traffic that would cause, but thankfully those images quickly vanished and were replaced by thoughts of how cool it would be for the boys to be able to get out in that kind of a traffic jam and check out the balloon up close. I was beginning to slow down.
We entered into a largely residential stretch of this boulevard, and trees lined the eastern shoulder. The hot air balloon began to descend quite rapidly and disappeared behind the wall of foliage. “Did it land on someone’s house?” “Did it land in a yard?” We were full of wonder. I slowed my pace as we approached the area the balloon appeared to have landed. Ethan’s eye’s were fixed on Jaden’s window. Jaden and Dillon searched around as we passed by the neighborhood… then a clearing… then, “Balloon! Balloon! Jaden, Balloon! Dillon, Balloon! Logan, Logan… Balloon!” Ethan was awestruck.
This huge checkered balloon had landed in a greenbelt park at the edge of the neighborhood. I slowed down as we passed by. The chase vehicle had already parked and had the trailer ready to load the gondola. We continued on towards dinner; the car full of excitement and conversation. The rest of the night was fantastic. We ate dinner outside in the cool evening air and the boys ran and played on the lawn. We all enjoyed the Zoo Lights, and even ran into some old co-workers there. We saw cool light shows and crazy otters. We saw Komodo Dragons and a talking giraffe… and from what I understand, there was apparently quite a few people there.
Over the next few days Ethan would erupt with a random utterance of“Balloon! High! Balloon!” I would sit and talk him through the entire event again… how we saw it way up high; how it landed in the park outside Jaden’s window; how it was bigger than the houses and the trees. He would stare off as if he was seeing it all over again… nodding slowly as we talked through it. Then he’d look at me and whisper “yeah”.
These are the things that wait for you to take the time to notice them. They are out there to observe everyday. Sometimes we just need the speed bumps in our way to force us to slow down and enjoy what beauty and courage and strength and imagination and whatever else inspires you exists in our everyday walk. I’m beginning to be on the lookout for speed bumps, and in doing so I am slowing myself down enough to notice more of the things I’ve been speeding by. It was an impressive precision landing, and it sparked a lot of great conversation for us about balloons and flying… and it made a lasting impression on Ethan… probably the greatest thrill of his life so far. Which also cemented a trip for us next year to the Balloon Fiesta! All because Dillon forgot his shoes.