Outside, February

The past couple days have been splendid here in our corner of the world; mild temperatures and no rain and we don’t need to go far to enjoy the outdoors because we live near many parks. Unfortunately, even with mild temperatures and no rain, the playground equipment in these parks is often damp and chilly and my children are delicate flowers who will not touch damp, chilly equipment so I have been taking them to the park just across one deserted cul-de-sac from our house. It includes a large field for running across and a baseball diamond complete with covered dugouts. We go there any time of year because it is basically a fenced pit of sand and fenced pits of sand + small children = Better Than Cats. Plus, the accompanying adults can sit in the covered dugouts and stay dry, if it’s raining. The people-watching is better than you might expect; there are the middle-school students to-ing and fro-ing in their sparkly flip flops and tank tops, various exercising elderly folks who walk the path around the park, people with large dogs that need to be run like horses and the occasional friendly binner.

Yesterday morning and this afternoon, on our way to the grocery store, we stopped at the baseball diamond and I leaned on the fence, squinting into the warm sun, feeling it stroke my cheek fondly even while the wind numbed my nose. Trombone and Fresco invented a game together, one where they run away from me, right to the opposite edge of the diamond, where it meets the grass. They stop there and look at me, then look out at the vast field of green, then back at me. They each scoop a handful of sand and then run pell-mell towards me, hollering “we’re going home, now we’re going home!” I hold out my arms and each of them buries his face in my sweater and I hold out my hands for their handfuls of sand. They both say, “More soap! More soap!” I drop the sand on the ground. They laugh and run away.

For 20 minutes, we played this game; me basking like a cat, them puffing like little engines, running like crazy. There was a moment where Fresco got distracted by something in the dirt and Trombone ran just a bit farther away, just past the line where sand meets grass. He was looking off into the distance, away from me, perfectly still. I looked up into the sky and saw a jet, so big and far away it seemed to be hanging from a cloud. The passers-by all disappeared and the traffic lulled and there was no sound, just this great, empty quiet. As though someone had sucked the noise from the world, slowed our motion, stopped time.

And then it started up again; air brakes and sirens and school bells and dog whistles and Fresco falling and scraping his knee. But for those few seconds I heard: warm air, open spaces, run as far as you want, as fast as you can, drop your jacket as you go, run faster by the house where the scary lady lives, riding bikes on empty streets, climbing trees and dropping cherries on passers-by, keeping spy notebooks, mudpies, spider legs, come inside for supper when the sun starts setting,


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