Three girls in the Girl’s room. It’s Memorial Day, so they have the day off. As such, they do the logical: they play school.
When the Girl was much younger, much smaller, and much lighter, we spent a lot of time down at the swing. L could pass whole afternoons in the swing if she would have had someone there patient enough to push her that long. If took the time, I could find pictures of me pushing her, Papa pushing her, Dziadek pushing her, friends pushing her — anyone who came for a visit, down there by the small creek that forms the boundary between our property and the neighbor’s, pushing, pushing, pushing. Higher, higher, higher. That was the formula.
Today, we took the Boy down for the first time.
It must be genetic — his love and fascination were instanteous.
The Girl has learned how to play dominoes — at least, a version of Mexican Train from a set with missing pieces. She generally tends to place her tiles on the table face up because, as she explains, she needs help. I tell her that perhaps it’s best if I don’t see what she has because it’s tempting to make decisions based on that knowledge.
Still, she does need the help. She often overlooks playable tiles and tends to draw without really thinking. And then there’s her tendency to get ahead of herself — a less magnanimous father would say “cheat” — and slip another tile down before I play.
In the end, the Girl wins, semi-fair-and-square. I’m fairly sure there were a couple of times she played twice while I was wrestling the Boy. Then again, I know of at least one time she missed a tile and I said nothing. Perhaps I was desperate to make a decent showing.
Then again, when I draw these three tiles toward the end of the game, one can hardly fault me, I think.
This is the song that the Girl, through her enthusiastic, dramatic singing, has drilled into my head, K’s head, and likely little E’s head.
“Honey, could you sing a different song?” is our little refrain to this particular number.
“Will you need your trusty gloves?” the Girl asks. We’re getting ready to go another backyard adventure — our own little version of the Backyardigans — and she is packing her bag. Among other things, she has retrieved her and my work gloves (in as much as hers are work gloves), but she can’t decide if we need them.
“Go ahead and pack them,” I tell her, and we’re off — first for a series of pictures.
“When I say ‘snap,’ you take the picture,” she instructs. She says it three times; I take three pictures. Simple.
As we march through the backyard, I learn that everything is “trusty” today: I have with my my trusty camera; she has packed her trusty binoculars; she’s worried about her gloves in her trusty bag.
Everything is so trusty, and I ask her what it means to be “trusty.”
“That means it knows you can trust it,” she explains.
And it gives me pause. In that case, am I trusty? As a parent, I almost assume I’m trusty. Perhaps it’s parents’ eternal worry that they are never as trusty as their children assume and need them to be. Maybe it’s easier said than done. There are certainly times when doubt seems to be the only appropriate response — a moment of reflection that makes us think, “I guess I could always do better.”
In the end, I know I always want my children to think of me as their “trusty Tata,” and I always worry a bit that I’m not living up to that.
The sky always seems somehow a little richer, a little deeper blue in autumn. I suppose it has to do with angles and refraction as the Earth tilts the northern hemisphere away from the sun and the southern hemisphere toward it.
Somehow, though, the light just feels more relaxed.
We in the south finally begin coming out to play at this point in the year. Triple digit heat indexes don’t do much to encourage the average South Carolinian to spend time in the park, kicking a soccer ball around or playing on the jungle gym. (And even if one wanted to, the equipment would be much to hot to touch, and forget about the sliding board.)
So today, with temperatures only in the mid-seventies, the four of us went to a favorite park for some swinging, sliding, and soccer practice.
The Boy sat briefly in a swing for the first time. The seat seemed still to swallow him, and his general inability to support himself combined with his love of peering forward made the prospect short-term at best.
But there was always the grass. Fascinatingly green, unfamiliarly scratchy, generally puzzling for the Boy. He’d likely have put some in his mouth if he’d realized how easily it could be done. The whole world would go in his mouth if it could fit, piece my piece, chunk by chunk.
L and I, though, were ready for some practice. With her speed, she can easily outrun most of the players on the field in her Saturday soccer games, so we worked on a new tactic: running as fast as possible while still kicking the ball.
“Just kick it out in front as far as you can,” I explained, “then run — run as fast as possible. You’ll beat everyone to the ball. Then just do it again.”
We also worked a bit on defense.
And the Boy finally got a closer look at that grass.
L has fallen in love with water this summer. Among her favorite sports to watch in London are swimming and diving; she asks daily to go to the pool; she flops about in the tub in her best imitation of Rebecca Soni. Despite her consistent love of water, though, she wasn’t that wild about the beach when we first went. Or when we went the second time. So when we headed to North Carolina with friends for a weekend at the lake, I was a but curious how she would take swimming in the open water.
As might be expected, she was a bit cautions at first. Thought she’d given up her arm floats earlier in the summer, she learned that one of the rules of the pier was that children must always wear flotation devices — and since there were no more swim belts, the Girl was stuck wearing her arm floats again.
There was also initial concern regarding what else might be swimming with her — or under her. Talk of an enormous catfish that broke a line earlier in the day had her worried and sitting on the edge for a while.
But only for a while.
Thus began a weekend of firsts. Fishing, for example — something that requires more patience than I thought the Girl had ever shown in her whole life. Something that involves touching things the Girl might not like to touch, like hooks and worms and fish. Something that can pass hours with only one reward: the peace of the wait.
Yet the girl is growing, and she’s always surprising us with what she can do, what she’s willing to try, what we can force her to eat. (Some humor intended there.) Fishing became the big hit for the Girl.
Yet there were the old stand-bys — what kid in history has been able to turn down an invitation to watch a film while sitting in an old water heater box?
Cramped, stuffy, view-blocking — it didn’t matter. What mattered was to be in the box. The movie was only secondary entertainment.
With a full moon that night, though, adults had other forms of less-cramped, more serene entertainment.
I spent the morning with six lovely ladies and a camper with a Jacuzzi, flat screen television, double hammock, and loads of other extras.
It was a morning of pretend: “Tata, pretend she…” “Tata, let’s pretend they…” “Oh, Tata, you need to pretend the dog…”
The days of pretend, when the simple imperative “Pretend” was enough to make it reality.
When we still had complete control over something.
And we could easily get a closet full of whatever it is that thrills us.
Afternoon Playing, a set on Flickr.
We set the camera up and let the pictures tell the story.
The Girl and I spend a day out of school together.