Fitting in at the Playground

The words in the entry of my 4th grade diary entry tell of a snowy night when my sister, our mutual best friend, Dotty and I bowled in the street. I vividly remember the cold dark night. We’d made bowling pins and balls to knock them over out of snow. There were just street lights and snowflakes and Dotty and Terri’s muffled voices playing and planning. The diagram that accompanies the entry is a labeled triangle. Dotty and Terri are the base of the triangle, and I am alone. I’m just a little point at the top all by myself. I was younger. Not always quite fitting in with the older two girls.

Now, I’m older. I’m back at the playground. This time I’m with my 22 month old granddaughter. Two young mothers carrying babies in packs on their chests, chat while their toddlers play. The one mother says she’s an expert at finding places to play in the winter that are free. I’m curious about her list. “Where all do you go in the winter?” I ask. She smiles and answers politely, respectfully. “Well, the main branch of the library is great. The top floor of the North Market is big and open. We go early in the morning and drink coffee while the kids run around.”

Sounds fun, I think. “Thanks for the tips,” I reply sincerely. They go back to swaying and chatting. Sophie and I bring out the sidewalk chalks. I think about the triangle. Here I am, back on the playground. I’m at the point,again. Not that I mind. As Soph and I draw, they talk about nursing dilemmas. I don’t really want to talk about nursing anymore than I want to go to the prom again. They gossip about a friend whose husband had an affair. “She said she went pure white trash, throwing his clothes out in the yard and confronting “other woman.” In my head, I snort. At my age, with no particular set of raging hormones, and years of living with husbands, most women in a similar situation send a sympathy card and no return policy.

“Nana,’mon. Look, Nana! A bug.” Sophie pulls on my hand, and drags me to the recycling bin. There she has discovered a lime green grasshopper. I’m recycling through my playground years,I think. But, now I have more resources and less of a desire to fit in than I did on that cold winter night some 48 years ago. I hold Sophie’s hand and we study the fascinating specimen together until it’s leap surprises us.

The leaves are changing. It’s autumn. I’m in my autumn years. It’s a good place to be. I love it here. When my winter years come, I’ll probably find a new playground where I don’t fit in, either. Maybe the dining table at the nursing home, or the family gathering, where my own peers are gone, and the voices of my children and grandchildren sound distant and muffled. Hopefully, Sophie will still hold my hand, and Dotty and Terri will still be at the table with me, and I’ll still be writing entries in a journal, seeing the patterns of life.


Journaling Jungle

Sophie and I snuggled deep into the covers. This first night of below 50 degree weather combined with the 7pm sunsets gave us reason to climb into the covers a bit early with a big stack of books and our new writing pad/ journal. I write in a journal every night, yet as my girls were growing up, I never made it a part of our bedtime routine. Reading came so naturally. Writing…..something i kept private.

A new generation and a new chance to try again. So there we were. We had a stack of books and a pad. “How should we go about this,” I wondered. Might help if I had thought about what kind of a writing utensil I’d use with a 21 month old ahead of time. But, no such planning on my part. So, we grabbed what was closest….a bright pink highlighter. “Soph, let’s draw about something fun we did today. Maybe when we went to get pizza.”

Sophie picked up the highlighter, leaned over the pad like a archaeologist discovering a rare fossil, clutched the highlighter between her thumb and a couple other fingers, pushed her little lips forward and scribbled. “Charee!” she announced.

I added to the entry with my words. “Yeah, we saw Charley and her dad and baby Joey at the pizza place.”

Hmm….what now? Do we date it and call it a first entry and move on to prayers? This is new to me.

But, Sophie, apparently was not finished. More intent pink scribbles. More leaning. The tip of her tongue is pushing against the bottom of her top lip. ” Charee dad,” she says as she points to the newest marks.

I embellish. Am I supposed to embellish? Not sure. No one ever wrote with me when I was growing up. Should I label it? That seems a little kindergartenish. She’s only 21 months.

The page is totally pink. Sophie is pretty pink, too. Nana is a little pink,as well.

I close the pad. Snuggle deeper. Play with her curls as we say prayers. Thank God for my granddaughter and read one more book.





Bedtime Writing

A cool gray mist enveloped us as we stepped into the little red boats that wind through the trees and dinosaurs. The zoo’s exhibit, normally crowded with lines of hot, sweaty patrons, was empty. The early morning downpour washed away the late September summer and ushered in the first taste of fall. “Nana,me, buckle,” Sophie noted as I clicked our seat belts securely.

Sophie’s big, brown eyes soaked in the sharp claws, the long teeth. ” Rrrrrr, ” she growled at the menacing looking creature. The mist, the Asian music, the excitement of my tiny companion, all blended together to transport me far away from home on an adventurous expedition.

As we bumped along the narrow canal, surprised by dinosaurs that sprayed water, gibbons swinging on vines, bridges and sprays of water, I held Sophie’s hand. Just last night, I’d been fussing with numbers, trying to budget my retirement money, calculating how much money we needed for groceries, gas, utilities, etc. and worrying that tutoring would sufficiently supplement my income. In that moment when her little fingers entwined my own, I knew that I’d budget every penny,never buy a new outfit, do whatever it took to stay right where I was….living moment by moment and seeing the world anew, through the eyes of  21 month old.

Slice of Life Challenge

It’s late. I should be in bed, because Tuesday mornings are busy.  I don’t have to get up in the dark and fumble through my house trying not to wake the slumbering and disturb the peacefulness. I don’t have to drive to the gym at 5:45 AM, sleep walk through my lower or upper body routine and jump in the shower. I don’t have to rush home and wake grumpy teens or ten year olds and rush them out the door. I don’t have to stop and start and clutch my steering wheel through rush hour traffic. I don’t have to race up the steps, breathless, crossing off things on my mental to- do list as I drink a cup of Chai and start teaching.

I am retired.

And yet…when the first rays of sun peek through my window, I’ll climb out of bed, thinking of all I have to do before 9:30 gymnastics class with Sophie, my granddaughter. We have a special trip to the zoo planned, too. I need to pack the cooler, and the books we need to return to the library. Put dinner in the crockpot. I need to reboot the laundry and swish and swipe the bathroom.  I need to stop at the credit union, call the…..stop!

I need to remind myself I’m retired. And, it’s not a long weekend or a spring break or weeks of summer. It’s for a very long time. It’s not that it’s not busy. It’s very busy. But, maybe, just maybe, what I need to do is s-l-o-w down. I’m on toddler time these days. It’s not linear. It’s not even circular. It’s more like we zig- zag through the day with spots of learning tucked into cuddling, walking, grocery shopping, finger painting, playing, and reading.

It’s late, but, what the heck. I’m retired.