The young man was polishing the chrome on his van. He worked with an intentness that ignored an unbelievable sky -- turquoise blue, a solid expanse of glorious color with not a wisp of cloud to marble it. He appeared unaware of the warm sun on his shoulders, the purple iris beginning to unfurl in the narrow border in front of his modest house. Inch by inch the polish was applied to the chrome, inch by inch the clouded coating was burnished to gleaming. He was stooping now to work on the lower part of the front of his van.
From a narrow area outside the house a little girl came running, seeming to skim the sidewalk cement. It was as though she was the natural kin of butterflies and hummingbirds -- so light the football. No more than 6, an extraordinarily beautiful child, wearing a summery dress pretty enough for a party, but not carrying a gift of any kind. Her pale hair glistened in the morning sun.
Since, stooping, the young man was so much more accessible, practically her full height, was it for that reason or sheer love that brought her to him in a second in which she kissed him lightly on the cheek? I cannot be sure. But, delighted to have been a witness, curious as always, knowing the openness of most southern Californians to complete strangers, I drew closer to where he was working.
The young man applied the polish to the chrome, waited for the right moment of drying and buffed. Had he looked up for that jubilant instant and acknowledged by so much as a turn of head, the gift, the love of the child? Delighted to have been a witness, curious as always, knowing the openness of most southern Californians to complete strangers, I drew closer to where he was working. "Was that your daughter?" "My daughter-in-law." Puzzled, I asked, "Do you mean your stepdaughter?" "Yes." Not for an instant breaking rhythm in his work. "Is she always so happy?" "Yes." Amending, "Most of the time." "She must love you very much."
An awkward silence. For the first time he stopped his work and really looked at me. Then, as though such words were hard to say, he replied, "I love her very much."
How I wish I could remember who it was that said: ". . . life is not a rehearsal."m I wanted to tell him this. I wanted to say you should have stood up and wiped your hands clean and picked the child up, careful not to crush her pretty dress, and whirled her around in a joyous dance, the love in her sparking the morning like a Fourth of July sparkler. You let a jubilant moment pass, Young man.m
I stood silent. Not a rehearsal. The phrase wheeling in my mind. "Grasp the moment's gift." Savor it. Notm after a task is done. Let the polish dry! Stand up and dance with the donor -- if you cannot accept a whole nugget of gold , accept a precious grain of it.
The young man was standing up now and admiring his work. He seemed to be enjoying his rflection in the mirror-bright metal. As I, witness, knew my face reflected the fleeting glimpse of a running child in a party dress and a radiant face.
Why else did a passer-by, glancing at my face, smile back?