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Precious Time

One evening early last year our friends were over for dinner and I was telling them that I wanted to put a water feature in our backyard, in between our bedroom windows. I thought it would be nice to lie in bed and hear the water when we were able to have the windows open. My friend’s eight-year-old—who, just like his mom, loves anything having to do with landscaping (weirdos)—spoke up immediately: “I could design one for you, Melisa!” I thought it was an excellent idea and told him to start thinking about it and we’d talk more about it later.

Last summer went by in a crazy blur: they were busy busy busy and Jim and I had a lot of traveling on the schedule. Then of course the school year started in the fall and the water feature had to be postponed. A couple of months ago the now-nine-year-old (henceforth known as my nine-year-old contractor) was ready to talk about it. He took measurements and showed me a couple of drawings. Between the two of us and his mom, we came up with a pretty solid plan for the fountain I’d been hoping for.

S with pots

A couple of weeks after a trip to the store for pots, my nine-year-old contractor came over with his mom to get started. We had to run to the store to get a cork for the bottom of the main pot and after putting it into place, he spread caulk over it. He did a few more preparatory things and then, since we had to let the caulk dry before filling the pot with water, we had to stop for the day. His mom apologized to me that this process was taking so much time. “I’m in no hurry,” I said.

That’s the thing: I’m really not. I suspect it felt to her like the creation of this fountain was taking absolutely forever; after all, they had to figure out when they could fit me in, in between school and her work and their extracurricular activities…I’ve been in the thick of that and know exactly how it feels. But now…I’m not. In this season of my life, one of the things I have a lot of is time.

When Jim and I were raising our own kids, there were years and years of BUSY. At times it felt suffocating and I can say with certainty that I didn’t get to do all I wanted our family to do together when Dylan and Jason were growing up. We never had enough precious time. Just getting through the “have tos” was a struggle, and while we did have a lot of fun over the years when we could grab it, taking a leisurely weekend to do what we wanted to do couldn’t happen on a regular basis.

That’s only one of the reasons why I enjoy spending time with my friend’s kids. In addition to the fact that I just really love being around these young people for the specific purpose of relating to them and loving them, I truly relish being that person who swoops in now and then to provide an afternoon (or an evening, or whatever) of leisurely recreation with no sense of having to rush onto the next family-related task. My sister did that a lot with Dylan and Jason and I appreciated it so much, having our own personal Fun Guide who was willing to whisk them away and make some great memories away from our day-to-day responsibilities. Now I can relate.

Spending my time with these young people makes me incredibly happy and I am usually greeted with love and excitement; I think it must be similar to the feelings grandparents have, spoiling special youngsters and then sending them home. My nine-year-old contractor’s older sister once told her mom that spending time with me was like hanging out with another teenager (huge compliment from a teen, you know) and I went to lunch with a friend yesterday who called me “Everybody’s Aunt.” This is the good stuff and I feel so blessed to have these relationships.

So the fact that this backyard water feature project went on for a couple of months didn’t bug me at all because I got to spend lots of precious time with my nine-year-old contractor. Yesterday I picked him up after school and we spent the afternoon assembling the fountain. Watching him do what he loves (and assisting a little bit, especially with the bags of river pebbles that were too heavy for him to lift) was something I’ll not soon forget. After we finished up, he stood in front of the fountain and said, “Melisa, I really can’t believe we did it! This is my first fountain project, you know.” I replied, “What do you mean you can’t believe it? I believed in you the whole time. Good job, buddy.”

Melisa and S with fountain
Sweaty and gross but finished!
(The pot on the right will eventually have some plants in it.
Jim will keep them alive.)
I feel confident this is the first of many projects for my nine-year-old contractor.
Click the picture to see it in action.