On Thursday, I drove to drop off my daughter to school. I don’t often do this, but with slush on the ground and a fairly persistent rain falling, it was just not nice walking-for-half-an-hour weather. It was also not nice outing weather, so I brought my son home. Both of us were soaked, and with a change of clothes and warmth of being inside feeling nice, I decided not to make a spontaneous plan to go out again until it was time to pick up my daughter from school.
I wanted to do a bit of arranging in the office because I am beginning to get my space settled. Usually when I go into the office, my son must follow me, and I get no work done. Thursday, was different. He played in the play room and only came in to check in on me once in a while. Of course the play carrot, banana, pizza cutter, and strawberry followed him wherever he went on his rambles through the house. Why those items I have no idea, but this play/work arrangement worked out well for me. I got the last package from Ikea opened and put together, stuff on some shelves, and some more open space created.
I don’t want to spend my days home not spending time with my son, but there are benefits to doing it now and then. I got some much needed house work done, and he also is beginning to learn how to play by himself safely and over a period of time. Both of those are important moving forward.
My daughter is wrapping up a week of soccer camp which met for two hours in the morning each day. I dropped her off on Monday, and I was a little trepidatious about my daughter’s first reaction to this new experience. Her first encounter with her music teacher earlier in the summer included crying, screaming, and me having to walk out as she cried and hiccuped through, “Good bye, Daddy. I am going to help the teacher.” She was right as rain as soon as I left, but the parting is not a fun experience for either of us.
Coach Katie, however, made all the difference in the world. She has a wonderful rapport with my daughter which led to immediate bonding. I couldn’t ask for a better experience. Here is an athletic, cheerful woman being a role model and teaching my daughter to love exercise. It doesn’t hurt that it is soccer, one of my all time favorite sports.
I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to getting my daughter into playing soccer. I played through elementary and middle school and then again in senior year in high school. I thing the game is one of the best out there. We even have a small soccer ball. Yet, I have not gone out and kicked it around with her. My best friend growing up lived on my street, and we played soccer constantly. She went on to play in college, and I am sure still plays. Coach Katie reminds me a bit of her, and if that is something my daughter can learn, I’ll be the happiest dad.
Just a few hours ago, a friend of mine posted about her kids playing on her childhood playground. It resonated with a concept that has been brewing over the last few days of this visit to my childhood home and environs. Though my elementary school playground is torn down and the school is closed, the neighborhood and nearby areas are rich with the layers of my memory. They start in my earliest recollections and continue through my adulthood to the present. Some of those layers are obscure and deep, but they are made clear by being in the place or talking with friends who shared these spaces.
The other day, I reconnected with a friend who grew up on the same block as me, and suddenly old memories began to come to light–ones that I didn’t even know I had.
And then my kids are let loose on these places. They play in my childhood home, they walk the same sidewalks, they pick up sweetgum balls from the same trees. They provide both new layers of memory in these spaces and at the same time uncover more from the deepest layers that have existed submerged and dark for decades.
My daughter wanted to play in the fireplace which was always non-functional when we lived in the house. It is sealed up and painted. However, it is a place where spiders make webs, so my mom told her she couldn’t until we vacuumed it out. This led to a nightmare that night of spiders crawling over her body and a persistent focus on the fireplace and spiders. I forgot how much I hated spider webs when I was a kid. I loved the ones outside, the dew studded spirals and the funnel spiders crouched at the bottom of their spun traps, but I hated the dusty, ragged things in the house that touched my cheek when playing hide and seek or brushed my arms when taking laundry to the basement.
Today, I took my kids and my niece to the neighborhood park where I played as a child. They have long since replaced all of the equipment and even the location of the playground is different. There are two riding animals that have strong, uni-directional springs. The ones that we grew up on were mounted on very large round springs that allowed them to move in any direction, and they were very hard metal. As my daughter and my niece rode these new, safer versions, I remembered both the pain of getting hit in the face by a hot, metal animal and the sense of victory in making it rock in every direction while staying on.
I am really enjoying this process of exposing the old while simultaneously creating the new; this shared interaction with my children only strengthens and increases the intricacy of my connections to my childhood home.
Today is one of those all-day-with-the-kids kinds of days. My son is working through the cold my daughter had, and I now am feeling it. Some good friends and neighbors had a hospital visit and need some support, so their daughter came over this afternoon and played with my daughter. We made bread, a now regular routine in the house, and even made tacos together. She and my daughter spent a lot of time in the play room having fun and distributing all of the toys evenly on every horizontal surface.
With classical music playing and a cider in hand, I am reflecting on the day. I did a lot of errands and chores. I played with both kids and our neighbor’s kid. The feeling that I did not accomplish anything major is tied to other goals like cleaning up my office, writing a novel, exercising (though we did walk to the grocery store and back), and the many other things that sit and molder on my idealistic to-do list.
The important thing is for me to reframe the day and realize it is the actualization of my most profound goal–being a dad. That was what today was all about, and in that I really succeeded.
Right now my daughter is sitting in her playroom, and a constant stream of language and song is pouring from her mouth. I can hear the things she is processing with many mentions of her doctor,
One, two, three seconds
one two three seconds
now ten seconds
It is clear that her brain needs this time to mull over what she is learning.
“What day is it?” she asks me.
“Do I get to stay home today?” she follows up.
“Yes, you stay home today,” I reply.
Then the inevitable, “Why?”
Having had this conversation many times, I give only a brief answer, “Because it’s Saturday.”
She dives back into her solo play, and sure enough, snippets of former conversations on this topic with her mom and me surface and coalesce into her current understanding of why she doesn’t go to school on Saturday.
Soon enough she is back to counting and telling me variously that it is 5 o’clock, 3 o’clock and other o’clocks. After asking for the time, she remarks, “9:45, that’s a lot!”