And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

A couple weeks ago, I was sick with pneumonia, which just felt like the ultimate insult during a finally-warming-up spring. A student suggested I visit a salt room. I’d never heard of such a thing, so I checked into it and found one close by. A salt room is exactly what it sounds like – a room made of salt. The walls, ceiling and floor are covered in white, the salt loose on the floor like gravel, and textured on the walls like plaster. A machine embedded in one of the walls blows more salt out, ground to a barely noticeable mist, and as you lay in anti-gravity chairs, you breathe it in. You’re covered with a blanket to protect your clothes and the temperature is kept at seventy degrees. I walked in a skeptic and walked out a believer. The salt thins the mucus, so it’s great for sinus and lung issues. It was amazing.

But it was also a different sort of reprieve. It wasn’t until my third time there that I realized it. Everything is white – there is no visual stimulation. The only sound is the machine pumping in the salt. It’s like walking into a desensitization chamber – the only thing you have to do is sit and breathe. Everything slows down. I brought a book with me the first two times, but that third time, I set the book aside and fell instantly into a sleep so deep, it was dreamless and all awareness fell away.

All because everything in my life slowed down for that 45 minutes.

I’ve been thinking, Slow down! a lot lately. The other day, Michael and I were discussing what we might want to do in five years, and I heard myself say, “In five years, I’ll be sixty-four –“ and I came to a dead stop. Sixty-four? 64? Of the Beatles’ When I’m 64? How the hell did that happen? Slow down, slow down, slow down!

My grandbaby, Maya Mae, is six years old now. The other day, Facebook gifted me with a Facebook memory, a photo of her beaming in her stroller, happy, happy baby, not even able to sit up yet. A short time later, I was driving past the Fox River, and there was my son and my granddaughter. “Hi, Maya!” I yelled and she gave me her queenly wave. She was so tall, striding by my son. No stroller. Absolutely under her own power. She wasn’t even holding his hand.

Slow down, slow down, slow down.

And then, of course, Olivia. She went to prom last weekend. I watched as she had a make-up session, and then I helped her into her dress. She slipped into high heels, grew suddenly taller, and strode confidently across the room. Strode confidently to meet her boyfriend, walk with him hand in hand, laugh during photos. Michael and I watched them cross the street in downtown Milwaukee and head into the Bradley Pavilion ballroom. My daughter, my youngest, in a ballroom.

Slow down, slow down, slow down.

I breathed deep, pretended I was in the Salt Room, with everything coming to a stop. Not forever. Just for a while. Just until I felt like I could catch up. Like I could accept all the changes, but hold tightly to the past. That happy, happy grandbaby. And my little girl, who used to spend hours lining up hundreds of colored plastic bears throughout the house, in a persnickety order only she knew. Who belted out Laura Branigan’s Gloria when she was only three years old and couldn’t quite speak. Who looked at her anxious parents on the first day of kindergarten and said calmly, “You can go now.”

You can go now.

Slow down, slow down, slow down.

Later that night, after we came home, Olivia washed all the make-up from her face, leaving behind pink cheeks and a bright smile. She asked for my help hanging up her beautiful dress. And then she put on…her fuzzy one-piece Care Bear pajamas.

Oh, that’s better!

She came out to the living room and sat next to me, on the armrest of my recliner. Olivia has never been a lap-sitter. She likes to be close by, cuddled in, but still her own independent entity. So just as she sat next to me when she was three, when she was seven, when she was twelve, and just last week, she sat next to me in her fuzzy pajamas and rested her head on my shoulder.

And there it was. Everything slowed to a stop and was its own crystal clear moment, even as it reflected back over the fuzzy-pajamas cuddle time moments from our past. It was all there – the promise of her future, the joy of our past.

That was all I needed.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

The salt room. That’s ALL salt.
Grandbaby Maya Mae – the happy baby stroller photo.
Maya now. Six years old.
My favorite photo ever. Olivia dancing in the ocean. She was five.
Olivia at prom, with her boyfriend Patrick.

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