The sky was overcast and the cool, wet breeze caressed our cheeks. The Gator's wheels crunched the acorns, branches, and leaves that had fallen on the trail. Miss-Miss held tight to the safety handle, standing proud on the passenger side, breaking every safety rule in the book. Bubba sat in the passenger seat, scrutinizing everything passing our path. J-man sat on my lap and "helped" steer, tightly clutching his toy to his chest. As the Gator labored down the hill, breaks squealing, me death-gripping the wheel, Miss-Miss patted the small vehicle and said You can do it, Gator. You can do it.
We made it to the bottom and the kids excitedly chattered about the noise of the water rushing over the rocks, the creek, the trail, the leaves, and the Gator. They had talked about this epic ride for a week, a summer, and here we were, on the Gator, savoring the fall air and the company of one another.
Pulling up to the first waterfall, I parked and shut off our four-wheeled friend, and we toddered down to the pavilion to get the best view of Mother Nature's fountain. We were there for all of two seconds when J-man turned and said Can we go back to the Gator now?
Now? NOW?!? But we just got there! Why would you want to leave now? Look at the waterfall! Look at God's majesty, carving rocks, and the land, cooling the air and misting and looking pretty and... and...
Mama, he said calmly, can we go back to the Gator now?
I sighed, unable to see why he would want to leave. This is my favorite spot anywhere. This waterfall helps me think when I can't, calm when I can't, smile when I can't. I wanted the kids to love this waterfall the way I love it. I didn't want to leave it, I wanted to savor it. I had been waiting for this moment all day. I sighed in frustration and as we trudged up the hill, back to the offending vehicle, I realized the lesson my youngest was trying to impart to me.
The journey is more important than the destination.
Why am I always so intent on getting to wherever it is I'm going? I hate long drives, I despise waiting in line, and I get so frustrated biding my time when the kids creep along. Why am I in a rush to get to 6PM/Friday/Halloween/my next Caribbean trip? When I'm in a rush to get where I'm going, I forget to stop and listen to the crunching of leaves under my feet, to feel the breeze on my face, to see the smiles my children give me, and yes, to even smell the poop. All of it. Because let's face it, the last stop for all of us is death. If I hurry up for everything else, I'm speeding to my ultimate demise and that is something to be avoided.
So, I'm not going to worry about the waterfall, or the next birthday/vacation/holiday/whatever. All of it will get here eventually. I'm going to attempt to stop and smell the spilled milk, pick up the errant Cheerio, and listen for the laughter, because my journey between these way stations of life is far, far more important than the place I'll end up.