What about life takes your breath away?

“Daddy, Daddy,” she whispered soft and gentle, her tiny fingers tenderly tapping my shoulder. I awoke to my daughter breathing in my ear.

Her quiet voice continued, “Daddy, it’s time to wake up. We’re going to the bookstore.” I rolled over and saw her smiling at me. She was snuggled warm in her pink footie pajamas.

“Let’s go, Angel.” I got up.

We walked down the stairs stopping at the sliding glass door, the brightness of the night’s ice storm beaming through the window, its countenance glowing upon the earth. We gazed at the dripping icicles hanging from the trees and swings. The sight caused a primal feeling: an inner urge to agree with God and say, “New existence is good.”

With the residual effects of the storm surrounding our home, we dashed to the front door and looked out at the misty roads, now salted and safe. Seeing that the day had succeeded in safely breaking through the ice, we decided not to cancel our visit to the bookstore.1

We left the house and carefully drove into a world made of glass. The sun shone softly, transforming trees into figurines and yards into carpets of crystal. The night’s storm had placed a swirling spell upon the world. It seemed as though our little car morphed into a sleigh as we entered a celestial city.

Through the windows, my little princess watched in wonder.

We walked through the parking lot toward the bookstore. Icy trees lined the building like frozen knights protecting their castle. Cautiously, we approached and examined one, its leaves vanished since autumn, its twigs coated with ice. “It was a wonderful old tree, branchy, with long crooked boughs, all in young green, with a hole and a split in it.” 2

Chloe asked me to raise her toward the tree. She reached out to wiggle a branch; it creaked, but did not break. We were in no hurry, absent of worries. We took our time; time did not take us.

George Macdonald once said: “Our life is no dream; but it ought to become one, and perhaps will.” 3 On this winter day, my life seemed frozen in a dream, encased like icy trees in a sense of wonder.

After a few moments we went inside, picked out books, and ordered drinks. To go with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, my daughter ordered a hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream and sprinkles; I ordered a dark coffee coupled with Hemingway.

As we sat in cozy café chairs, a stranger stared in our direction. We grew uncomfortable. The stranger spoke but muttered something inaudible. We made eye contact, and then she spoke again, more clearly this time. She said: “When your daughter grows up, she will always remember this day.”

Struck by her insight, my eyes dampening, voice cracking, I could only get out: “Thank you.” My heart melted with love.

Years later, when in middle school, my daughter wrote about this day:

“One beautiful winter afternoon, my dad and I were on our way to the bookstore. I remember opening the car door to a new world filled with delicate snowflakes coming down from the sky, trees sparkling of snow.”

“As I admired that winter day, my dad came up from behind me putting me on top of his shoulders. Giggling, he walked us over to a tree covered with snow, gleaming in the sunlight, with icicles dangling off the branches…”

On that icy cold day, we lived in a heavenly world filled with angelic messengers and pure joy. It was one of those days life is measured by—it took our breath away.

This experience touched my fundamental and universal desire for true happiness. Sharing in my daughter’s innocent joy left me wanting more of it, imagining that one’s entire life can be lived like this one day. I hoped that my life could match this one moment of grace.

I looked for a way to expand these moments into days, days into months, months into years, until little-by-little they became the whole of life. My hope was in this line: “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” 4

 

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