It caught my eye, and I couldn’t look away. The air around them seemed to almost glow. In the crowded public pool at the rec center, amidst the chaos of swimming lessons and booming aerobics class; a mother and her baby.
I watched from the observation balcony as she gently swayed and dipped turning soft circles as the baby drifted in and out of sleep; the one-year old nestled on her shoulder, softly rubbing her little hand up and down the woman’s arm as she softly patted the tiny back. They were alone together in the chaos, one in their movements. Their own bubble of heaven.
It took my breath away. Memories of the intimacy, and the deliciousness of skin to skin contact oneness flooded my mind. I ached to be that woman in that moment, and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I had been blessed to experience those same feelings so many times; with my husband, my own treasured children, and with other babies generously shared.
As I herded half the neighborhood into the van, and shuffled kids through the showers at home, chopped apples and issued commands, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d seen.
I felt as though I had been given a sacred vision of unspeakable beauty, and as I pondered, the Spirit abruptly interrupted my thoughts with the question, “But what did they look like?” I tried and tried to remember any physical characteristics of mother or baby. I couldn’t. Funny.
So the next day at swimming lessons, as I entered the pool area, I looked for and found them. There was nothing spectacular about the woman. She had a mom body, a little acne, common features. Not hideous, but nothing special as far as the world would judge. Not someone you would notice. I was also surprised to see that the baby had a glassy, crossed eye. Still, to me and to each other, they were beautiful beyond words.
I found myself humming a song from an LDS women’s conference that’s always touched my heart:
She is not the image on the magazine, she’s the woman just behind you
At the checkout stand.
She may appear to be common, but she mystifies.
In all the ways the wisest men and children understand.
For she has eyes that sparkle with her love
And she has a smile that’s a gentle as a dove
And no woman on the pictures or tv could ever hope to be
As beautiful as she.
For a few minutes, in an unexpected place, I was privileged to glimpse a couple of strangers the way that God sees them. Their beauty and their infinite worth. It was a precious gift I wished I could share somehow with them. Our Heavenly Father’s love, their love for each other, and the love I felt for them made them exquisite.
And suddenly I realized that I wouldn’t have been blessed with those insights if she’d been too proud to get into the pool, maybe waiting until she “got her body back,” her face cleared up, or even until the baby’s eye was “fixed”. Maybe the child she had such obvious love for wasn’t even hers.
I knew nothing about her. I had no idea of her story; her bravery, the burdens she carried, of her secret sorrows and disappointments, her strengths and talents, or her struggles. I don’t even know her name.
But because she was willing to show up, and quietly bless the world just by being there, I will never be the same.
Maybe you are changed now, also.
And she will never know.