I looked up from my book at the sound of her uncontrolled delight; a moment caught in time. Droplets of water spread out toward the four winds, held forever in suspended animation. Her face overflowed with the joy of a puddle, mud and all. The world around was inconsequential, its cacophony silent. That moment, the sound and feel of her tiny pink boots slapping the water were all that mattered.
No more than two feet wide, yet for her, like walking on the vastest sea; the thrill of it caused a squeak of glee and then silly gut-laughing that took her breath away. Over and over she danced till she finally tired of the game. Breathless, spent and deeply satisfied, she wondered back to her Mom’s side, looking ready for a snack and a nap. As they walked away, her Mom tucked away her phone with the photographic evidence to recall the joy in the years to come.
I returned to my mystery, a rare luxury to be reading in the park; a retreat from the demands at home.
Moments later I heard light footsteps that once again caused me to look up. The woman was a pair of decades older than me, but seemed able bodied and had a purposeful stride. She slowed as she approached the puddle and assessed the small strip of pavement around it that separated it from the muddy grass.
Looking down at her clean, waterproof galoshes she judged the state of affairs. With a grimace, and a heavy sigh of resignation, she tip-toed around the puddle, and returned to her forward pace. The condition of her heart was confirmed by the downward curve of her lips and the tightening of her brow. Somehow, the wonder of the puddle went unseen.
I watched her walk away. My gaze returned to the puddle and then down to my new shoes and back down the path to the woman. Something arose unbidden within me; a nudge, a hard push and then a decision to be made. Though moments before my comfy bench was a reprieve from a hard world, it now seemed a mile marker toward death of the soul and spirit. The nudge triumphed over apprehension of how I would look, or if I was being sensible.
Being of sound mind and limited budget, I removed my shoes; the feel of the grass and pavement were unfamiliar on my pampered feet. A tiny stone pricked my tender flesh and I considered abandoning the silly idea that I entertained. But, the looks on the faces of the girl and woman flashed in my mind and the nudge took over again. I gingerly stepped into the puddle and rendered a small yelp at the surprisingly cold water. I look around to see if I was being watched. I was.
A man was sitting under a cherry tree ensconced in a folding chair; his eyes peered over the top of his book but then looked away at my glance. I had a decision to make. Was it worth public humiliation?
I continued on.
I stepped from foot to foot, slowly at first, and then picked up the pace. Before long I was making respectable splashes and little - then big - hoots. One thing led to another and I abandoned myself to the thing rising within me; my spirit and His, a damp dance of joy… a moment in time.
Though mud clung to my feet and splashed on my rolled up jeans, I lingered in the wild wetness of it until I was spent, breathless and drained of the soul sludge that I brought to the park. Satisfied, I returned to my bench, picked up my shoes and book, and floated out of the park.
As I passed the man in the chair, he was looking at his shoes.
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