There are some moments in life I like to think of as ‘Peek-a-Boo’ moments. Have you ever played a game of peek-a-boo with a baby of a year or few months old? I think it’s much more entertaining for me than it is even for the baby, to be perfectly honest. There’s something so beautifully fleeting, so refreshingly innocent, about the baby’s expression and bubbly giggle. When I cover my eyes with my hands, I hear the baby’s giggle and feel the tension. They know I’m going to reappear, but when? Then I drop my hands and squeal, ‘Peek-a-Boo!’ With that, the baby almost always collapses into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
Simple games of ‘peek-a-boo’ always leave me marveling at how unsatisfactorily short those precious moments are. The baby knows nothing about pain, or strife, or the difficulties they’ll face in the life ahead of them. Those games last only a second in the grand scheme of things, and before you know it, they’ll be walking and talking and growing up. Those once babies won’t be babies anymore. Just a second. You blink, you uncover your eyes, and the moment has passed. You won’t ever get it back again. You won’t get it back, but those moments are the ones that make up life. To me, ‘peek-a-boo’ moments are the most important moments of life. Those moments, however fleeting, inspire me. They make me feel like there’s more than just me, than just those I know, there’s a whole world out there. And once that beautiful, speck of a moment leaves? You won’t ever get it back. Experiencing or seeing those kinds of moments always inspires me to write.
A few weeks ago, I went to the beach for vacation, and while there I got the surprise of my life. I thought it was just going to be my immediate family, that’s what was planned, that’s what was expected. It just so happens that this summer is the summer of my 15th birthday, which is an important milestone for me. I had initially wanted to go to Puerto Rico to visit my cousins, but it became too complicated, so the idea was dropped. A little background on these two cousins, two of the most amazing people in the world. One of them, I met four years ago when she came for the summer, and we instantly became inseparable. We have the same birthday, and she turns 21 this year. As for my other cousin, we met last year after Hurricane Maria struck. Her house was severely damaged, and her school was effectively closed for the rest of the year. She came to live here last year in order to finish her Sophomore year, and we also became instant friends. Needless to say, I love them both very much. I look up to them, and it had been a year since I had seen either of them.
On the second day there, there was a knock at the door, and I opened it. Standing there was my cousin, and I’ll never forget that moment. My heart stopped in my chest, and I took a step back, not sure if I could believe what I was seeing. With shaking hands, I reached up to take my glasses off, and I set them down. Yeah, she was still there. She wasn’t an illusion. Trust me, I was surprised too. I embraced her, hugging her so tight I’m sure I cut off her circulation. I didn’t ever want to let go. I didn’t ever want to live outside of that moment. Later that week, after we had a whole week of fun and laughter, sunburns and salt water, I thought that was the biggest surprise I could ever receive. I was proven wrong, as I was standing on the beach; I saw someone walking towards me in the distance. For the second time that week, my heart stopped. Because the girl walking towards me looked an awful lot like my cousin- but- no; that couldn’t be. It couldn’t be, yet it was. I ran towards her and nearly jumped into her arms. Those two separate moments were immediately imprinted in my brain. They were fickle, quick peek-a-boo moments, but I would never forget them, and I knew that they would define me.
When it was time to for them to leave, and I had to say goodbye to them at the airport, it was with teary eyes. I didn’t let go of their hands the whole time on the car ride there, I didn’t let go until it was time for them to really leave. I stood and waved until I couldn’t see them anymore. When I let go, I lingered for a moment, trying to memorize their hand, their sad smiles. I didn’t know when I would see it again. Peek-a-boo moments don’t have to be that eventful, they can be smaller. Like at the summer camp I went to that ended just last week. I met amazing and inspiring people, people I don’t want to forget. I’ll never forget the moments I spent with my new friends raving about Shawn Mendes like a lunatic, listening to his newest song on repeat. And when I say on repeat, I mean it. We were typing and prepping for our debate the next day while jamming out to his new song. We listened to it at least fifteen times in a row. We were belting out the lyrics and dancing crazily- I’m sure everyone thought we were insane! Or the fun moments at lunch when we were all laughing and talking about random things. The photo shoots we had, the deep conversations, everything. All of it passed so quickly, yet that just made it so much more important to me. Those peek-a-boo moments might seem insignificant, but they meant everything to me.
There are some people that you might spend time with, in which every moment spent with them is a ‘peek-a-boo’ moment. That person to me is my Great-Grandmother. My Abuelita. Growing up, she defined so much of my childhood, so much of who I am and who I want to be. She would always have a bag of balloons in a drawer in the kitchen, and she would give me one every time I came over. We would blow it up and play with it, tossing it around. She would always have the best snacks, snacks only she bought. Snacks I could only have when I was at her house. I would come in, and she would insist I eat, even if I tried to convince her that I had just eaten or wasn’t hungry, she would never accept it. When my dad would go to Publix to buy her groceries and I stayed with her, she would try to sneakily give me food. ‘Nia,’ she would say, ‘Ya se fue, apúrate, come!’ ‘Look, he left, hurry and eat!’ And I would always cave in and eat some sort of junk food. Little did she know, my dad knew that she did that, and he didn’t care at all. It made her happy. Abuelita thrived on the happiness of others, and food makes people happy. She was always just so glad that she could give us something.
Until 94 years old, she adamantly refused to use a cane or walker. She was strong and fierce, she didn’t let her age restrict her. She had an extensive garden that I would ask to be walked through every time I visited. Every time, it seemed, there was something new. Tomatoes, bananas, flowers. There was a never-changing, huge avocado tree and small palm tree. There was the tree with the little limes, with the seed she had gotten from Puerto Rico. I remember asking if we could make juice out of those little limes, and I thought for sure she would say no. Most adults would, they would tell you that you were being silly. No, not her. She simply smiled and told me that was a great idea, and she could show me how. So, we picked those little limes and brought them to the kitchen, and she showed me how to make a juice out of it.
We would play games and games of dominoes, keeping track of who won and who lost but not really caring either way. What mattered was that the games were filled with endless laughter and teasing. She loved art, and would paint anything and everything that was lying around. She had these plastic chickens, the kind you put on the lawn, and they were a different color every time I saw them. One day they would be yellow and white, and the next they would be pink and white. She had a collection of bobby heads that she would make up stories about. She had a family recipe that she taught to my grandma, and that they both taught to me. Some of the best days of my life were made up of making it with her, and getting to eat it, of course.
The best thing about my Abuelita? Her light. She had this light, a light that came from the inside of her and shone through everything that she did and said. Just by looking at her, you would feel at ease. Her laugh was deep and long. When she laughed, she did so without a filter, the kind of beautiful laugh that comes out when you think something is so funny you can’t control it. And, gosh, her smile. It lit up her face, her eyes would crinkle and smile with her mouth, always making me feel like everything would be alright. She had this magnetic personality, she drew people to her and made them happy without trying. I remember always looking at her and wishing I could do the same thing, be the same way. Now that she’s gone, I don’t get those moments back. Those peek-a-boo moments that defined me are in the past, and I won’t ever get them back. Get her back. It doesn’t matter how much I cry, or hurt, or wish that I could get those moments back, I won’t. They’re gone, but the memory isn’t. Those ‘peek-a-boo’ memories are ones that I’ll hold in my heart for my whole life, they’re memories that define me. Yes, I miss her, gosh, more than words can express. But those memories I have with her? They’ll never go away, and that’s all I have to hold on to. All I know, is that if I become at least one third of the person that she was, I’ll be happy.
I hold onto these short-lived instants with both hands, with my heart and with my soul. I keep these moments at the top of my mind and deepest depths of my heart. When I write, my characters are prone to the same thing. That’s what makes me excited to write, because your characters are not made up or defined by big moments. Small, important moments are what define your characters, and I think that’s really important to note. If your character is kind, they will be defined by the way they ask who wants the last slice of pizza. They will be construed by the time they offered to carry the backpack of the kid who broke their leg. I think it’s really important to live life with your eyes wide open, noticing and holding your peek-a-boo moments close, and trying your hardest to notice other people’s moments. When a moment is fleeting, when it goes by in a flash and means the world to you; it makes up who you are. That’s all we’re made of. That’s all we have.
Thanks for listening to my long rant about ‘peek-a-boo’ moments. I hope you now realize how incredibly important they are and that you begin treat them as such!
“How lucky I am, to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”-Winnie the Pooh