Story: A Path Diverted
Excerpted from "A Path Diverted" by Gregory S. Pelley. Originally published in Wrestling with Adulthood: Unitarian Universalist Men Talk About Growing Up, edited by Ken Beldon and published by Skinner House Books, 2008. Used with permission.
One morning last fall, I picked up [my daughter] Grace from preschool. She was now two and a half years old. When we arrived home, I was rushing to get into the house to do whatever it was I thought I had to get done at that moment. When I got to the back door, I turned to see her squatting on the sidewalk, blankie in one hand, poking a stick at something on the ground. Frustrated, I barked at her to get inside now. She stood and let the stick drop, still staring at whatever she had been prodding. I impatiently held the door and growled, "Come on, Grace! We need to get inside!" She took a half-step toward me and cocked her head to one side, her eyes never leaving that spot on the ground.
Suddenly it hit me. This is the clash between being an adult and being a child. At that moment, for Grace, nothing could be more important than what had caught her attention. It was time to wonder, to explore. I sighed, sad that I had given up the ability to be deeply interested in something crawling across the sidewalk on a warm afternoon. I let the door shut, walked the few steps to Grace's side, and quietly asked, "What do you see?" She picked up the stick and pointed. It took a moment for me to quiet down enough for my eyes to see.
An ant was dragging a crumb of bread that looked to be four times its size. The ant pulled and pushed and climbed on top of the crumb, then underneath it. The scene was excruciating, and fascinating. I sat down, and Grace slipped into my lap. She never said a word, keeping the stick in one hand and her blanket clutched in the other, thumb in her mouth. It took several minutes for the ant to move that crumb the last six inches to the edge of the sidewalk, before slipping down into the leaves and out of sight. Grace stood, dropped the stick, and walked up the stairs to the door. I didn't know what to do, what to say. At the top of the stairs, she turned to me and said, "Come on, Daddy."