Anne Lamott in her memoir, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, opens the book by talking about the Lily Pads of her life. She writes, "My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. Each prepared me for the next leaf on which I would land, and in this way I moved across the swamp of doubt and fear."
I thought of this today as I was watching Owen splash in the puddles. Owen got super-cool Fireman rain boots for his birthday, so we put them on and headed off to the beach. The plan was to to splash in as many puddles as possible.
Mission accomplished. We started in the dirt parking lot, where he jumped in the puddles, causing the water to hit his shoulders. He then sped through the puddle, leaving a muddy wake. Crying, "Come, on Mom, this is cool!" he picked up sticks, handfuls of dirt, and rocks, throwing them into the puddles and laughing out loud. There is nothing so satisfying as the sound of a good, heavy splash.
We moved on to the small beach. Sometimes, I'm struck by the Maryland-ness of our lives. As Owen played by the banks of the Chesapeake, fishing boats cut through the fog. Owen picked up oyster shells and fossilized coral off the ground and put it in (surprise!) another puddle, making "soup." We shooed away ducks as they waddled our way, listening to the sound of the waves gently lapping the shore.
I pulled up my hood and watched Owen create his own world out of twigs, sand, shells, and water. Then, I thought of Anne Lamott and her Lily Pads.
Her metaphor is one of faith...the faithful people she encountered protected her from her swamp of depression and darkness as she inched towards her own relationship with her God.
Likewise, Owen is leaping from one Lily Pad to the next, as he leaves babyhood and toddlerhood behind, becoming a little boy. His first Lily Pad was me, as he would sleep, eat, and stretch in my arms. My smell, my body, my warmth was his safety. As he learned to sit up, crawl, and walk, his next Lily Pad was larger, and included grandparents, aunts and uncles, and most importantly, Dad. He learned how to talk and imagine, and with that, his next Lily Pad included caring adults---babysitters, pastors, teachers, friends. Each Lily Pad was progressively larger to support the people who loved Owen.
And today, watching him play independently on the beach, I realized that Owen is about to leap to another Lily Pad, where he stands on his own two feet. He still has all the people who love him, but he also is learning that he is a pretty great person by himself. A person who can play by the bay, collect shells and stones, and create worlds out of puddles.
He is this person because he knows that whenever he jumps, he will not fall in the swamp. He will be protected. He will be loved.