Friday, December 9, 2011

A Day to Play


We arrived at University Village late. It does not seem to matter what time I begin to get us ready to go somewhere. We all expand to fill the extra minutes so that I consistently have the same reaction when I turn the key in the ignition and the digital digits swell from vague to firm. I could blame it on Manny insisting on putting his pants on his head and his sweater on his legs, or on Glory needing her blanket in the car, or on Elena falling off the dining room chair again, as though gravity is something that cannot be resisted. I could. But I think it has more to do with my inability to anticipate the unexpected. Is change possible or do we just think it is while we're busy making the same mistake we've made a thousand times before, only to be surprised by the familiar outcome?

We were 10 minutes late to Kids Club so the girls could have their hair cleaned up. When their hair becomes so unruly that they look like no one pays attention to them, I know it is time to go to the salon. Glory got a braid and pink sparkles dusted across the top of her head. I tried not to care about all the chemical fragrance she was inhaling and paid attention instead to what a lovely little girl she is. Her passion right now is to put as many clips into her hair as she can manage. She even sleeps with them snapped all around her head. It’s like she’s in training for sleeping in plastic curlers so her hair is always perfectly coiffed for an era already gone.

Once Glory’s head was shimmering, Elena quickly got over her fear of having her bangs trimmed. She flung herself into the red fire engine chair and pawed through the tub of beheaded and defrocked Polly Pocket dolls, as though it was a treasure chest. She chose blue sparkles and all the kids got a Dum Dum lollipop and a balloon.

I took them out to a sit down lunch at Boom Noodle. I intended it to be something festive, something fun, something out of the ordinary and a way to avoid wiping up food from the floor for a few hours. (Yeah, right. Like I was going to wipe up the floor.) What I didn’t expect was how profound the experience would feel.

Manny said, “We’ve been here before.”

No, we hadn’t.  But after a few minutes of watching them negotiate the wooden kids chopsticks and enjoying the atmosphere, I realized we had been there before, when it was a different building and a different restaurant.  I thought of Manny and Sam and I at the booth eating hamburgers and fries and trying to engage him in the food and the coloring long enough to finish our meal. I thought of the two little babies I was carrying around with me. We had been here, but not here. Look how it’s changed. Look how we’ve changed. So many places feel that way to a degree. We’ve been here before, but not here, because look how we’ve changed.

Elena, Glory and Manny diligently used their kids’ chopsticks and nobody disappeared under the table or wandered to another part of the restaurant. Not even once. It all made me feel deeply connected to the memories of my mom taking me on urban adventures and how special it felt to have treats together. Suddenly my life felt so brief and fast and I was practically tingly with understanding of the wonder of each blessed moment.

As we walked to the bathroom, I wondered, how old am I? It feels so foggy now, there’s so much I can’t remember and the train I'm on feels like it’s speeding from stop to stop. I hope that I am able to hold some of this, even when I can’t hardly remember a single thing I was taught in college. My emotional high continued on through chaotic peeing, wiping and hand washing, only to be abruptly shot down when Manny turned off the bathroom lights, leaving a poor, unsuspecting woman in a pitch black stall.

We missed Manny’s swimming lesson because we tromped across the village to pick out a gift for my mom, losing two balloons to Anthropologie's gorgeous vaulted ceilings. The girls' cries carried them to the wishing fountain where Manny flung his penny and loudly proclaimed that he wished Dad didn’t have to work so much. That’s the second time he’s used a penny to wish for that. It is the collective wish of our family and it was positively epic to have him speak it over the rushing waters of the fountain.

The kids played at Pottery Barn Kids for ages with brown mustaches from the Fran’s Hot Chocolate we shared. I was surprised over and over with how special it all felt. I should have cared, at least a little bit, that Manny missed swimming, but I was just so glad to watch them play and I was so pleased that we could walk away with nothing except Manny’s rapidly deflating balloon and a gift for Grandma Jan and there were no complaints. Only fun.

About 20 feet away from the car, Manny announced he was out of gas and he turned into a piece of overcooked pasta. I almost forgot the delight of the day in those 20 feet when it felt as though no amount of coaxing would promote movement. When he finally slid into his seat, he told me he needed to go potty. I took my chances and we drove up Montlake past the very sick and disenfranchised looking man we saw the last time we were coming home from University Village.

Glory and Elena chatted happily about how dirty he looked and how they believe Daddy is building a house for this man and how in the meantime, we can bring him home to our house. I was pleased that their reaction was one of compassion and hospitality. I talk to them a lot about justice. But I didn't know what to tell them about that man and why we were leaving him far behind us as we drove through Fremont and up Queen Anne hill.

The kids were tired by the time we got them into bed and as I snuggled Glory, I could hear her begin to suck her thumb in the rhythm that indicates she is moments away from drifting into a deep sleep. Elena, on the other side, was busy sucking the french fry salt from dinner off of every single finger and then licked her palms like they were giant lollipops. Manny fake coughed until I agreed to give him a cough drop.

I skipped down the stairs to attend to my sink of dishes and tableful of half broken Christmas ornaments from last year's daily tree demolision, my heart full of gratitude for the present moment, with a pause to sigh, peel a french fry off the bottom of my foot, toss it in the compost and try to ease back into the gratitude for a rich and wonderful day.


Omar said...

Yea! Angie is blogging again!

Carmen Goetschius said...

Ang, I had not read this one yet. Powerful images. From the fog to the joy to the disenfranchised men. Keep up the good work!

Sarah Boyle Webber said...

I was just checking you one last time before I dumped off your link. Glad I checked! Welcome back from survival.