Over the weekend, we finally got out of the house as a family.
It's been a while since Jeff's been out. The pressure sore on his foot has prevented us from venturing beyond our front and back yards. Lately he's had to wear a pouffy black boot to pad the bottom of his heel whenever he's in his chair. But on Saturday, I padded up his foot with all kinds of wound care supplies, and he was able to wear his shoes for a short period of time.
So off to the park we went.
Evie has been telling us this past week that she has finally learned to swing all by herself (!!!) She informed us, proudly, that she no longer needs the lunch teacher to push her. She's learned to pump her legs and use her arms to pull herself forward, and has discovered that these combined movements translate to perpetual motion.
The park we went to is actually Evie's school. The grounds are open on the weekend, so she was able to show us her new skill on the actual swing she learned on.
It was a big deal.
We all got out of the van, and while I was closing up, Jeff and Evie were off. Evie led the way with quick footsteps, and Jeff cranked up the speed on his chair and whizzed through the open gate. She was on the swing, pumping away, grinning from ear to ear by the time I got in the gate.
Jeff and I found a nice spot in the shade, and we watched as our girl reveled in her new ability.
While she swung, she started telling us all kinds of things about school. Why is it when we ask about school she never has much to say? It's when we're least expecting it that a whole slew of stories comes out.
She said she was so glad to come to the swings on the weekend because during school days there's a timer out by the swings, and you can only swing until the timer dings. Then it's time to get off and give someone else a turn. But on Saturdays and Sundays, "I can swing as long as I want." :)
She also told us the names of some of the animals on her school's farm. (Her school has a working farm on the grounds complete with all kinds of animals and a garden for each class). There's Roxy the girl sheep, and Goy the boy sheep. And there's Cookie the black and white bunny whose "carriage" is decorated with butterflies and dragonflies. And of course there's the massive desert tortoise who (in my opinion) has the best name in town: Mr. Tortell.
After swinging "as long as she wanted to," she was off to the big kids' playground - the one the Kindergarteners are not allowed to play on during school. She thundered across the blacktop with Jeff hot on her heels. Once there, she climbed like a monkey on the structures. The big playground is close to the edge of the farm, so we got to see some of the animals she told us about. She pointed out Roxy and waved to her. We tried to get Roxy to come to the fence so we could take a closer look at her, so Jeff made a clicking noise with his tongue in an attempt to lure the animal closer.
The clicking noise he made sounded just like the clicking he does when his air comes off. Our family has been conditioned to respond immediately when we hear that sound. I knew what he was doing, so I didn't need to check the connection. But poor Evie was at the top of a slide when he began clicking. I saw her as the sound registered in her brain. She looked up quickly at Jeff and shouted, "Oh NO!"
We apologetically told her that Daddy was just trying to get the attention of the sheep, so there was no need to worry. Our words were met with a stern expression and some chiding: "Daddy, you shouldn't make that noise. It sounds just like when you need your air. You should make a different noise when you are calling the animals."
I guess she told him.
She went back to playing and Jeff and I enjoyed watching her. Jeff especially enjoyed letting the warm sun soak his face. Since he's usually cold most of the time, he loves warm weather. At home, he's like a cat - he'll find the beam of sunshine coming in a window and maneuver his chair into that spot so he can be warmed by the sun. Today, outside, he was like a lizard sunning itself on a rock. He turned his chair full into the sun, closed his eyes, and let the rays warm his body. It was nice to see the little smile on his face as he sunned himself.
The next day, Sunday, Evie asked if we could go to the park again. This time it was just me and her. As we walked along the blacktop, I was taken back to a few weeks ago when I took her to a different park. Jeff hadn't been feeling well, so it was just me and Evie then, too. As she played that day, in the background was a little boy who was learning to ride his bike without training wheels. His dad was next to him, pushing him along, encouraging him to keep pedaling.
I watched this father and son as they made memories of this momentous occasion. I smiled sadly for behind my sunglasses were tears of pain, knowing that Jeff will never be able to run next to Evie's bike, his hand letting go of her seat as she wobbles along the path of transitioning from a little kid to a big girl.
Sometimes the sadness of this injury is so overwhelming.
Back in the present, I sat on a swing next to Evie while she swung happily into the air, her hair blowing all around her face.
As she pumped, she sang a song from Sophia the First:
To tame a wild carpet
You can't be afraid to try
You gotta hold on to the tassels
And reach up for the sky!
Just as I was about to fall back into the sadness of Jeff not being able to experience this moment, I realized that all too often I let the sorrow of a life left behind take over occasions like this. To the point that I forget to live in the here and now.
Evie sang the song again, and this time I listened closely to the words. I felt like they were speaking directly to me. So for the first time in a long time, I began to swing too. Evie's eyes lit up when she saw me.
"Mama! You know how to pump too!" We both smiled and laughed.
After the swings, we walked across the blacktop and I told her how my dad (Papa) used to take me to my school on the weekends and how we used to play wall ball. I explained to her the rules of the game, and told her - much to her delight - that I would get her a ball soon and teach her how to play.
Then we walked around the perimeter of the farm, checking out all the animals. We watched bunnies nibble on a pile of fruit the farm volunteers had left for them. We saw two ducks fight and bite one another over a piece of celery. And we marveled at the volume of the rooster's call.
We even had a close encounter with the wonderful Mr. Tortell.
Finally, before heading home, Evie wanted to try sliding down the big pole on her playground. She hadn't gotten up enough courage yet to do it on her own, without help. After she went down it a couple times with me barely holding her, it was apparent she could do it easily on her own. She just needed encouragement. After some tearful moments followed by my weak threat to just get in the car and leave, she faced her fears and slowly, methodically, slid down the pole ALL BY HERSELF. As her feet touched the sandy ground, she looked up at me, red faced with remnants of tears still in her eyes and blurted out, "That was fun!"
It felt good to experience this "first" together. Just me and her. For her to experience that feeling of accomplishment in gaining a new skill, and for me to allow myself to live in the moment with my daughter.
I felt like I'd tamed a wild carpet.
It was a good feeling, and it was a good day.