We walk to the park together. Well, Gracie Lou Who is riding in the pink car while I walk. In one had she has her water cup and in the other a yellow daffodil that I pull from a lawn for her. She loves looking at all of the flowers of spring, and getting to have one in her hand helps to protect all the others along our route. She tells me stories that make sense in one-year-old speak, but to this 30-something are mysteries. Its clear that they are great stories though, so I try to ask questions and encourage her to keep going. After a while she must get bored with me not joining in so she just sits and rides, watching the house as we pass by.
Entering the park, I always take the same way so that we get close to the dog area first. I know she loves it, and I love how she loves it. “Dah. Dah. Dah.” Happy shouts come from inside the pink car. She points at any and all of the dogs in sight. She waves sometimes too, though I’m not always sure if she is waving at a dog or a tree or a pixie that I cannot see. No matter what, the water is still in one hand, the flower in the other, and a smile is on her face at seeing all of these four-legged friends.
We head toward the middle of the park, another favorite spot and our main destination. “Swih. Swih. Swih.” There are three swings that are the right size for Gracie Lou Who, and usually at least one is open (most of the time all three so we can pick based on sunshine and bird poop; aiming for the first and avoiding the second). Still holding the water and flower, I lift her up and into one of the swings. After a few minutes I’m given the flower to place back in the car (or toss behind a tree if its a bit mushed). And after that the water. In good weather, we can easily spend 15 minutes in this space. Swinging back and forth. I walk around to push from the back, or run past with a “Whoosh” sound to keep her attention. This is where I taught her about high fives and am working on “Ta-Da” with jazz fingers (she has the sound but not the fingers…yet).
With the school year almost over, there are more kids at the park these days. A nearby school uses the park for some free play. About 40 kids and five teachers come over. They always start by lining up on the basketball court, and then on a grown-up’s shout, are released like a tidal wave into the park. One group will veer off toward the teeter-tooters while others push all the way through to the jungle gym. And always a group lands at the swing set. I’m grateful that these kids are all bigger than Gracie Lou Who so they don’t try to claim the swing she’s on. And while I’m trying to scan the area to watch for any flying sticks, racing kids, or car thieves, my little bird just keeps swinging. She is enraptured by all of these big kids. The rainbow of movement and sound around us. I cease to exist for a few minutes as she takes it all in. I watch the gears moving inside as she wonders how they move so fast, climb so high, and make so many strange sounds. She will be among that tidal wave, that rainbow some day.
But today I am thankful that we get to be together at the swing set. Watching a crazy storm around us, but not in it…yet.