Ages 2-5Play

A Small Break from it All

Note: This is an essay I wrote 4 years ago, but I still think it’s important for me to remember. 

Weekends. In my younger years, they were times for relaxation and fun. In college, they often lasted most of the week and involved gay bars, drag queens, a little too much alcohol and trips to unknown destinations. When I was married, they were first an exciting time to spend my days with the man I cared for. Later, my stomach would plunge, knowing that I’d have to spend two whole days with a drug addict whose only real goal was to score more drugs. After I left him, weekends were once again something to look forward to, but they were more relaxing and less exciting.

These days, weekends are still fun – mostly because of my kid. Now that he’s 4, we can do so much together. I’ve taught him so much; for example, he can mock me very accurately. He gets weekend homework at his Pre-K and we sit together and complete the worksheets. And lately, we’ve been rolling down hills (weather permitting).

A few blocks away from our house is a large square of land that slopes down on all four sides to a small flat plain at the bottom. The area is filled with thick grass and is bordered on one side by a parking lot for the sheriff’s office, on another side by a church with amazingly loud bells, and on the final two sides by residential roads and houses. Earlier this summer, on a walk past this spot, I decided to teach SC how to roll down hills. I chose the smallest side, had him lay down horizontal, and pushed him down. He rolled down slowly, screaming with glee. He found this amazing, and did it over and over until he was covered with grass clippings and his cheeks were flushed. At times, when Ruckus seemed sufficiently calm, I let go of his leash and rolled down as SC stood at the top of the hill and giggled hysterically.

Lately, though, Ohio has been pelted with rain. We’ve gotten rain 5 days or so a week, and although I love it, it does put a damper on our hill-rolling opportunities. It’s also getting colder. We’ll still be able to roll down the hill in colder weather, but we’ll be much more chilly when we stand up at the bottom of the hill. Today, however, the temperature is 70 degrees and the sky is clear. We haven’t had rain for a few days. So I grabbed the dog, SC, a poop bag, a letter for my best friend, and a magnifying glass, and we headed out for an afternoon excursion.

Our first destination was the mailbox at the end of our block. SC had never mailed a letter in a real mailbox before, and he was excited to mail one to Aunt D. It took us about 8 years to walk down to the mailbox, though, because SC kept picking up dry, dead leaves and examining them with his magnifying glass. I don’t really understand his fascination with leaves. To me, they’re lovely on trees, pretty when they turn vibrant colors in the early fall, and then they’re just… dead. To him, each is a treasure. He examines the color, the veining, the crispness of each one. I kick them aside. Maybe he’ll grow up to be a botanist or something. Or a Hallmark-greeting-card author.

Eventually, we got to the mailbox, and I showed SC how to put the letter in and make sure that it went down into the cavern of letters. He asked a plethora of questions about how the letters get to different places. He’s actually really inquisitive lately, and I find that answering his questions scientifically is often difficult. I do my best to avoid the sarcasm that comes to me so easily. Therefore, when he asks, “Why do dark clouds mean that it’s going to rain?”, I take a deep breath and try very hard to not tell him about how rain presses on the clouds’ blood vessels so that they bruise. Instead, we speak to Einstein (my boyfriend) and he tells us the scientific things.

After the mailbox, we turn the corner and get to the hills. SC breaks away, running, and he positions himself on one of the sides that is the smallest. I watch him roll down, clapping and cheering, as  Ruckus takes the time to pee on every square inch of land he can reach. As SC prepares for roll #2, I choose one of the higher  sides of the hill and sit down, holding on to the dog. I’m sitting there, watching him, and I lean back and take a huge, contended sigh. My cell phone was deliberately left at home so I could ignore my ex-husband’s whiny texts. I can forget about all of the little problems and annoyances of life – the too-long daily drive to work, the stresses of the new job (a great job that I’m excited to have, but stressful nonetheless), the impending move, the always-present juggling of money – and just relax. The sun is gently shining, SC is delighted to be outside, and the wind is blowing at a speed that would not blow over a full trash can but would destroy a picnic. I have nowhere specific that I need to go, and nothing specific planned for the rest of the day. It’s bliss. Pure bliss.

Bored with rolling down the hill, SC begins to experiment with the mild slope. First he walks down it upright as I shout encouragement. Next, he crawls down it on all fours. By this time, we’re both laughing hysterically. Ruckus is still randomly peeing, apparently trying to induce dehydration. My mood, which wasn’t bad before, is soaring. I help Alex compare all four sides of the square bowl-shaped formation. I rejoice in his intelligence, in his obvious adoration of me, of his humor. Life is good. Life is really, really good.

Our walk home was soothing as well. As we ambled along, with me swinging the pungent bag of Ruckus’s droppings, I took the time to delight in the beautiful neighborhood that we will soon be moving away from. The homes were all built in the mid-1800’s and are painted various shades of pastel colors that I don’t usually see beyond Monet paintings or the 120-pack of Crayolas: pinks and yellows and powder blues and mint greens. Ours is a light purple with hints of blue, trimmed with white windows. SC and I chatter as we carefully walk so as not to trip over the uneven sidewalk. I think about all that I’ve experienced here in the past 2 and a half years, and how most of it was positive. Not all of it, of course, but most of it. As much as I can appreciate the pretty houses and the square bowl of rolling fun, I know that it’s time to move on. My new job is a dream come true, and I’m ready to be closer to family. I’m hoping that I’ve found my California dream guy. Life is exciting, and that’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s also … well, exciting.

It’s nice to know, though, that no matter what’s happening in my life – good, bad, fast, slow – all it takes to get a break is to spend time with Alex and a gorgeous day and laugh so hard that my stomach hurts. As optimistic as I am right now, it’s nice to have a little caveat to hold onto, just in case things go to hell.

image found at flickr’s creative commons

Tori Parker

Tori is a high school English teacher from Ohio (insert cheerleader kick here)! She is emphatic! She is skeptical! She is nifty! Her boyfriend says that they can get a potbellied pig someday and name him Bacon. She has a little boy whose pseudonym is SC, although he has recently asked that his name be changed to Henry. When asked for a comment to add on this bio, he asked, "Why do we sound like a bad '70's cop show?" So there's that.

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