The kid and I had an all-American weekend, though it was a lot of work.
I picked him up Sunday and we went downtown to check out the new Public Square. We had to park a couple of blocks away, but even with all the walking and him saying how boring it would be, it wasn’t. It was even better than I imagined, actually, with Mitchell’s giving out free ice cream and some other guy giving out free frisbees. I put my purse down in the middle of the grass and nobody ran away with it while we played hard, but really terrible frisbee for an hour and a half, the sun beating down and making the sweat run down our backs. He got up on a statue and I took some pictures and nobody was passed out or dealing and nobody said hey baby, can I be your boyfriend. So yeah, it’s changed, for the better. It was awesome, honestly. My son has not been there since I took him on his first RTA train ride with me to come downtown for Winterfest that one Christmas season when it was so freakishly warm for winter, like three or four years ago. He was a tiny thing and we got cookies and hot chocolate off a food truck.
We went to the West Side Market, which was too crowded and too many stands were closed, so we left almost as soon as we arrived, and stopped at a store on the way home to get some hummous and pita, which I’d make into pita chips to take to a party we were invited to Saturday afternoon. One of those all afternoon/evening deals with families and little kids, big kids, grandparents, friends. In a cul-de-sac in a lovely suburban enclave in an exurb about 20 minutes from home. I am a whore for these parties, I realize. The well-manicured lawns, the neighbors saying hello to each other, kids playing cornhole on the sidewalk and dogs and babies and children screeching and eating too much watermelon and everyone watching everyone else’s kids and stay out of the road and don’t give that dog a cookie, it has chocolate in it.
I have known some of the people at that party for an embarrassingly long time. Back in the day, we were fiercely debating Beckett and Brecht, wearing layers of costumes in Shakespearean plays, handling snakes (literally) backstage and welding and painting sets, and partying hard in between. We all laughed and loved and played hard back then, and now we are parents and we laugh and love and play hard, but it has changed. I watched the hosts steal kisses again and again when they thought no one was looking and was jealous and filled with joy at their happiness. A little girl decided I was her friend and hugged me and sat on my lap and had me take her to the bathroom, and came to me for advice on dealing with the little boys multiple times throughout the evening. She had a little lisp and sparkly glasses and for some reason, listened to me and I realized I could have been a mom to a girl, too, and done ok, which was nice.
After too much food had been consumed and we were all coated with bug spray, it came time for fireworks, and we crossed the street to the huge pond in the development. There was a joyous and amazing band and party playing across the other side. It reminded me of parties in Topanga back when I lived in California. They were playing the Dead and James Taylor and I saw people of many colors and the air was perfect and the light was amazing. As the sun went down, I encouraged my son to catch a firefly. I promised they wouldn’t bite. He was scared and I showed him a couple of times, how they light up when you hold them gently in your hand, and then release them. He finally caught one, and was then over his fear of them, chasing them all around the lawn near the pond with the other children as the sun set and we waited for the fireworks. There was a row of elderly people in lawn chairs directly behind us, like they knew the best spot to watch the display. I set my blanket on the angle they were watching, and we waited. As the sun set, people around us lit up sparklers and the kids ran around screaming and the band played. I was full of food and joy and couldn’t believe my good fortune to be where I was at that very moment, and tears streamed down my face as I watched my son play in his overtired state.
He joined me on the blanket just before the fireworks started, the sun having gone down and now he was cold. I wrapped it around the two of us and pulled him to me, for I won’t be able to get away with that for that many more years, and I treasure it.
We ooh’d and ahh’d and I didn’t tell him how the fireworks remind me of the night my father died, when my mother took me back to college and I knew, even though no one had told me, that he had already died, each city we passed through shooting off fireworks as we drove by, and each explosion reinforcing to me that what I felt in my heart was true, and that he was gone.
That is my memory. He must make his own memories of these nights. And so I was present and with him and we talked about which was our favorite, and how they make the air smell, and that it must be dangerous for the people below the explosions.
“I am NOT sleeping on the way home,” he insisted, as I buckled him in. “Ok,” I said, and turned the radio on as we inched through the neighborhood traffic, making our way back to the highway. He was asleep before we left the development, and I sang along to the radio, in tears again at my good fortune.
I am still able to carry his 45 pounds inside, and I wrapped him in the blanket he had pulled on top of his car seat and hefted him to me, carrying him in, down the stairs (please don’t fall, thank you), laying him in his bed, ready for the next day, of picnics and grandma and the beach and our life, which we live as hard as we can, since you never know how much more you have.