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.