Yesterday my husband had one of the few glorious days off he will have all summer (he has only four more real days off with us until Labor Day, in case anyone is wondering). My oldest son, who is five years old, had recently begun talking about going fishing since he’d never gone before (we don’t buy cable and my husband has an affinity for the old Andy Griffith Show which we watch on a DVD collection we have. Little Opie Taylor goes fishing some and my son thinks this is cool. If this doesn’t tell you just how suggestible children are I don’t know what will.). We’d considered doing something entirely different with this rare day off. I needed a haircut and we could use a trip to town for a few things (“town,” by the way, is 75 miles away). But listening to my little boy I knew how important it was to be quiet and be still and hear his heart. You see, time is not like money. You can never earn more of it. We are born and have a finite amount of it available to us. When we look at the length of our lives we should consider that, out of an entire lifetime average of 70 to 80 years, childhood is fleetingly brief. My son will be five for only a year. In the arc of his life, and mine as his mother, this is but a nanosecond of time. I looked at my husband over our children at dinner and whispered “Let’s go fishing tomorrow. Let’s have a better memory.” He whispered back, “but you need a haircut.” I smiled and shook my head and whispered back again “no. I’d like a haircut. We need something better tomorrow. With all of us as a family.” We got into our pajamas that night, after dinner, spread a blanket on our back lawn and laid on the grass to watch the stars come out while we listened to the desert wind blow in the trees. We hadn’t told the boys yet, but we were going fishing tomorrow.
The next morning my husband came to me and said “maybe we should just practice casting on the lawn today since he’s never been fishing and then go ‘for real’ on another day. That’s what I did as a kid. Practiced first.” I considered this a moment. Then I said no. I reminded him that we have few precious days together this summer and I told him that we aren’t going fishing to catch fish. The fish were incidental. We were going fishing to catch this time in our lives because we cannot get it back. We were not seeking the perfect casting experience. This would be the day we introduce fishing to our kids. There would be mud and wet, tangled line, lots of instruction and plenty of goofy things likely to happen. He said “but we don’t have the right clothes and the right gear.” I smiled. I said, “A fishing pole, some bait, snacks and water are all we need. We’re going.” After a stop at our local store for fishing licenses for my husband and me, and an inexpensive fishing rod for our son, we were on our way.
After a good half hour drive, we wound our way back from the main highway to a small lake tucked back in the mountains. It was hard not to be stunned by the beauty of this area we hadn’t seen before and marvel that it was only minutes from the highway we’d driven many times. It was quiet. There were people hiking around the shore nearby and the quiet sound of their chatter. Mostly there were people sitting quietly with fishing lines in the water. There was the occasional sound of summer thunder in the distance, birds tittering and chirping, an occasional bark from the few dogs running free with their owners nearby and the effervescent excitement of our own children. We spent three glorious hours fishing. There were muddy fingers holding dangling worms. There was, indeed tangled fishing line. There was plenty of instruction in how to navigate the rocky, sandy shore without falling down and the discovery of how to perch on a good solid rock while bait fishing and how to watch the bobber for the sign of a fish nibbling. There was an introduction on how to reel in ‘just so’ when spin casting. There was the re-injury of a previously scratched up knee and the gentle cleaning and re-bandaging of the boo-boo while drying a few tears. There was our first and only catch of a large crawdad eating the worm intended for the trout I didn’t catch, which made us laugh. We saw fish jump from the corner of our eyes and would turn and point too late to see anything more substantial than the ring of water left by the phantom swimmer that had disappeared beneath the water. We witnessed tiny fish swimming near the muddy shore. There were, as it happened, no trout reeled in to bring home. But what we brought home was so much more than that. When the sun started sinking lower in the sky and it was getting on toward dinnertime, we packed up and climbed the rocky hill back to the car for the drive back home. My son sat in the back with the warm glow of satisfaction on his face and said “Mom. Dad. I love fishing. Maybe we’ll get a fish next time. When are we coming again?” It was a simple day with nothing more than the desire to capture our time, a brief moment.
It is so easy to get lost in the busy of our days. It is easy to overcomplicate our lives and those of our children. It’s easy to give into a life so loud with the insistence of our daily to-do list that we miss the simple opportunities to use our time wisely. I love gadgetry and gizmos and technology as much as the next person but sometimes it can make us lose touch with what is simple and real. It can overfill our lives with multitasking, making us lose more time than we realize. It’s easy to forget that time is a limited commodity that cannot be regained. Sometimes all we need is to remember that life is simple. That our time is finite. In the end, really, we have all we needed to make life wonderful all along. Budget and use your time wisely. You’ll be glad you did.