We were jogging across the street--car parked in a red zone, engine running, hazards on-- making a quick stop at the mailbox on the way to school so E could mail her valentines. (Remember the days when there was always a mailbox within walking distance? Not where we live. Not anymore.)
"Those aren't parrots, honey."
We were late, which was my fault, not hers, but I was rushing her anyway. She had circle time, I had a meeting, we should have mailed the valentines yesterday but the glitter glue wasn't dry. Everything runs late in our world lately. Even valentines.
"Mommy, yes they are! I can see them."
I scooped her up so she could reach the rusted blue metal mailbox door and helped her push the envelopes inside.
"No, honey. Parrots don't fly around in flocks. They live in the jungle. Or the zoo. Or the rainforest, or something. Those are crows. Or pigeons. Hurry up, get back in the car. We need to get to school."
E stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and folded her skinny arms inside her puffy winter coat, her "I'm not budging an inch until you listen to what I have to say" pose. I love that she has one. I wish I had one of my own.
"They are so parrots. I can see them with my own eyes. And you didn't even look up." She lifted a finger, bubble-gum pink nail polish almost all chipped off, and pointed to the sky, sounding patient and exasperated in the same breath.
Just like I often sound.
I looked up.
There were parrots in the sky.
Dozens and dozens of them, green feathered bodies with fluffy red heads and big cartoon eyes, cooing and grooming themselves, flying between telephone wires and hopping from branch to branch in the big palm trees that lined the street.
E didn't say "I told you so," which I appreciated. But she should have. Because I wasn't looking up. Because I told her she was wrong. I was all wrapped up in my own head and the time on my watch and the ten million things I should already have done that day. But E was looking up. Present in the moment, using her her very own eyes to see what was real instead of what was simply supposed to be there. Looking up at the sky on a beautiful gray morning at exactly the right moment to see a flock of wild parrots fly right over our heads.
"I love parrots, don't you?" she asked with a happy sigh, standing on tiptoe and opening her eyes wide to watch even harder. "They make me happy."
"They must be wild parrots. They make me happy, too," I said, hoisting her on to my shoulders.
We watched until the wild parrots flew away, all at once with no warning, just a harmony of squawks and flash of green feathers flying toward the horizon in a formation they must have practiced a thousand times before.
"Aren't you glad you looked up?" E asked as I buckled her back into her car seat, taking the time to straighten the straps, no longer able to remember what had been worth rushing for in the first place.
"I'm just glad you're here to remind me to," I told her with a kiss on her triumphant forehead.
"Wild parrots are the best," E said, watching the sky.
I know this won't be the last time I forget to look up, or the last time E will need to remind me. No matter how hard I try to be present in this life full of blessings, there will always be moments--far too many of them--when I forget, or I can't, or I just don't want to see what's right in front of me. But for all of my own failings, I'm managed to create a human being who lifts her gaze to the sky at the exact right moment to see what is beautiful and extraordinary and real.
And that, for now, feels like enough.