On a rare evening or Saturday morning, when I have the opportunity to sit in our living room for more than a few minutes and watch the chaos that is the Pratt household do its chaotic thing, I have come to appreciate the inevitable tapping on my leg from our daughter, Meghan, who is almost 2.
“Dad! Dad! Dad, Dad, Dad!” She works to get my attention stripped from 10 other voices, slapping my knee and getting gradually louder. “Dad, Dad, Dad,” she implores. “Yes, Meghan, what is it honey?” I finally respond as if I’ve been paying attention the whole time. “Hautch, hautch, hautch,” is her persistent plea, which requires translation to anyone but the family: “Watch,” is what she means. “Okay, Okay, I’m watching, Meghan, what do you want?” Once more, she replies, “hautch,” with her eyes growing and the grin on her face spreading to show tiny teeth.
Then she begins running. She actually does laps around the coffee table. Turning to me as she hits each corner to make sure I’m still “hautching,” and demanding my attention again if I get distracted. On a good day, a couple of siblings will join her, and they’ll all laugh, trying not to run into each other as they dodge the sofa and corners of the table and whatever else might be strewn across our living room floor. This can go on for a half an hour or more. My job is to play the spectator and cheer loudly. “Go Meghan, go Meghan. Run baby, run!” This is entertainment to die for.
Maybe we should be worried, or maybe she’s a marathon runner in the making, but I think I have an inkling as to how she became fascinated with running in circles. When Meghan was a few months old, and Renee would go out for a few hours in an evening, I learned quickly that all Meghan really wanted was her mother. Nothing else could provide real consolation for a nursing baby. So we would spend what seemed like hours on our way to find Mom.
First, we would search the house, going into each room and down each hallway, turning on the lights as we went. All the while, I’d be whispering in her ear “Momma’s not here right now, baby, but she’ll be here soon. Everything’s going to be alright. Shhhhh.”
Finally, we would end up in the living room, and I’d do some laps around the coffee table, while shushing in Meghan’s ear and whispering, “everything will be alright.” Lap after lap after lap, until finally Meghan would quiet down and begin to relax. If I stopped or sat down for even a minute, she would stiffen again and cry and beg for Renee. I became convinced that the motion, just laps around the table, brought the impression of progress. She thought we were on our way to find Mom, and as long as we were going to Mom, she could relax, knowing we’d arrive there soon and be happily reconciled.
One late night, after what seemed like hours of laps around the table, as the pain in my back became worse, I had one of those “aha” moments. I developed a theory that has affected the way I view life.
I started thinking of the hope I have seen on the faces of people in Mexico and Peru. It seems that in spite of the most dire, poverty-stricken circumstances there is a persistent hope which drives them through their daily regiments of chores and simple activities that are, by necessity, intently focused on just the basic needs for survival: obtaining food and water and maintaining homes made of mud or boxes and pallets.
Hope is pervasive. Every new morning brings the possibility of improvement, of progress, of the chance for love and redemption, or maybe of just breathing and living and enjoying the children at their feet, or maybe it’s a hope for something much bigger. I really believe that we all hope for something beyond ourselves, something we don’t quite understand, but are driven to by our humanity.
I wondered then, if maybe, just maybe, that need for hope, that requirement in our souls for progress toward the mostly subconscious desire for what will ultimately satisfy us, has something to do with the reasons God made the world turn. The sun rises and sets and we see time progress and we do laps around the center of the earth, and as we round the corner of a new day, we hope someone is watching, and that we’re really making progress. God whispers in our ears, “Shhhhhhh. Everything’s going to be alright.” We believe we’re going to find “Mom,” or whatever it is we believe will actually satisfy that deep desire. And we do another lap. Maybe things will be better tomorrow . . . just around the next corner.
If that theory has any truth to it at all, I hope that we’re persistent. I hope we don’t settle for the brief deception and fall asleep like Meghan did when she was younger. I hope we keep looking for “Dad’s” eyes around each corner, comforted and inspired by the fact he’s watching, and knowing that we’ll eventually get to the thing that truly satisfies rather than falling for temporary distractions along the way.
“Hautch, Dad, Hautch!”