Stop time is a musical term that refers to those moments when everyone, except the rhythm section, stops playing for several bars. The piano, drums, guitar, and bass may keep playing chords, staccato, in a syncopated or regular beat, but with plenty of airspace between.
That’s when the tap dancer, or the sax or the trumpet, take off on an improvisational riff. So with tap dancing, it sounds kind of like “bamp, bamp-bamp,” then “tippity-tappety tap tap tap bang!” “Bamp, bamp bamp,” “tippety-TAP, tippety TAP, tappety-tippety TAP TAP TAP,” or something like that.
What happens in that silence between rhythmic chords is important, exciting, and a little unnerving, sometimes.
Stop time took on new meaning for me a week or so ago. My day was ticking along just fine, a happy, productive morning. Angelic Daughter decided to make herself some “toast and jam” for breakfast, which is really a peanut butter sandwich on toast.
As she got started, I popped into the bathroom for a moment.
When I came out, I found Angelic Daughter holding a pair of metal tongs just above the plugged-in toaster, ready to extract her hot toast with what seemed to her to be a creative and reasonable solution to retrieving toast too hot to touch with fingers.
Time stopped, all right.
Angelic Daughter gets extremely anxious if I startle her with a sudden expostulation like “NO!” or “WAIT!” but in this case, I had no choice. I shouted and grabbed the tongs just in time, and unplugged the toaster.
We went over the “never put metal in the toaster” rule again, adding “never put your fingers in there, either.”
This morning she used a cloth to remove her toast. I reminded her to unplug the toaster first. And I dialed back the toasting time, to reduce the heat of the result.
I gave her a quick quiz, holding up a wooden spoon in one hand and a stainless steel one in the other.
“Which of these is metal?” I asked. She pointed to the metal spoon.
We also went back over the “never put metal in the microwave” rule again, just for good measure.
Today a church friend told me I was a good Mom. Yeah, right. Not so much. Not that morning, anyway.
There are days when Angelic Daughter seems exceptionally wise beyond her years. She may come at things a little sideways, but when she’s feeling calm, her beautiful, well-intentioned heart shines through whatever she says or does.
If I make coffee in the morning and take a moment to go log in to work, she pours me a cup and brings it to me at my desk.
If I leave my water bottle empty on the kitchen counter, she fills it and brings it to me.
Before she makes herself breakfast in the morning, she unloads the dishwasher without being asked.
And when I get stressed or anxious, from work, or frustration with yet another annoying minor home repair, she says things like, “don’t be frustrated, Mom, I’m here to take care of you.”
Oh, sweetheart. That’s supposed to be the other way around. I’m here to take care of you, my angel.
There are days when time seems to have stopped for me, but not for others, like the day I realized that a middle-aged, married guy was the person I’d known as a child, the youngest in his family, running around at the 4th of July parade-watching party his family hosted every year, because they lived on the parade route. How, how, could this grown man be “Little Tommy?”
It happens when I run into old high school classmates, and find them nearly unrecognizable, while they seem to recognize me instantly. What’s that about?
And it happens when Angelic Daughter’s day combines moments of great adult insight, empathy, and loving concern, with moments that remind me I still need to think about harm that could come to a curious toddler, or offer reassurance that although Dad can’t come back, his love is always with her.
Time hasn’t, and won’t, really stop for me. I know that. I’m vain about how little gray hair I have, but I know it will turn white, like my Mom’s, eventually. I still have a lot to do to make things ready for what happens when I age out of my ability to care for Angelic Daughter.
But for now, for tonight, I’m happy to stop time, and do that thing that all parents do from the moment they bring a new baby home: creep as quietly as I can to just outside her bedroom door, simply to listen to her breathing.
Feeling extremely lucky and better loved than I deserve, I remain,
Your anxious, mostly exhausted, nearly broke, lonely, but generally OK,