It may or may not be embarrassing to admit that a wordsmith such as myself needed to look up what “providential” meant. Amateur.
Well, it means opportune, lucky, fortunate. Or my favorite: divine influence.
And in a not-so-amateur way, I felt this wind would soon be arriving ever since the five-year old girl with the hot pink shirt and matching hot pink head band, sat down with her grandmother for lunch at Panera. It wasn’t Saturday, but a Thursday afternoon with Grandma, spending all the time in the world talking across the table in fairy tales and wonder. And I, sitting across from no one, smiled in between shovels of my BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad. My schedule told me I was in a rush to somewhere important, but my stomach had demanded proper fueling first. To my surprise, I had found a stolen moment tucked away in the back corner of the restaurant. No longer having living grandparents of my own–orphaned in a way that skips a generation but never a lifetime–I slowed my bites to witness this matriarch become just as childlike as her granddaughter.
“Did you? Did you really just take a bite of that chip? You haven’t even touched your sandwich yet,” she said playfully, the way one does when etiquette is thrown out the window because you’re out to lunch with Grandma!
The little girl giggled in her seat, took another crunch, and smacked her lips with a sip of her fountain drink–as if to seal the deal that she was in fact, untouchable to proper things. “You caught me!” And she giggled some more, tickled at the moment of being seen.
“I did catch you,” said the grandmother, who walked back to the table after filling her cup up with water. “But I almost didn’t. If I had taken two seconds longer to get my water, I wouldn’t have even noticed!” Her intonations reflected the grandeur of simple things, and how one has the power to assign meaning to the mundane so that it becomes memorable to those who believe that things matter. “It’s all about timing.”
“It is all about timing, Grandma.” At this, the little girl took another swig from her soda before deliberately setting it down on the table and looked directly ahead. “It is all about timing.”
These intonations from the little girl made me stop my chewing altogether. It didn’t mirror the playfulness of her grandmother, but instead distorted the amateur nature of our intelligence at five years old. She got it. And she didn’t need to imitate anybody for it to matter, or pretend its meaning was more powerful if it were cryptic. No, she wasn’t mocking the cliche statement either. She just stated it simply, and completely unaware of the platitude.
To her, it was the truth. She got away with eating chips before the meal. To me, it was providential. Even if I didn’t know it then, I understand now that where we put the emphasis on certain things, the same things even, can change the way they make us believe. For example, you can on an sit on an idea for years like a child, thinking about it in only a certain way: grand. Until a venerable woman comes along, sits across the table from you, and says, “I caught you.”