Taco Cat Takes a Wander
Last Friday after dinner, our younger (just turned 5) asked me if I would join him in biking to our local park. It's something we do often, though not usually on Friday evenings when everyone is worn out from a long week of work and school. I agreed. He enthusiastically started packing a backpack with some of his favorite things, including a singing birthday card (Taco Cat) he'd received from his (19 months older) brother (who signed it with the birthday message: “POOP”).
“Are you sure you want to take your card to the park? You can't really do anything with it there and it might get damaged.”
“Yeah. I want to show it to Colin.”
“Yeah! From school. I told him to tell his parents to take him to the park so we can play. I made sure he knew the park's name and that it's across the street from our school.”
“Umm. That sounds great and I'm sure Colin wants to do that. But you know there's a chance his parents have other plans or might choose a different time this weekend to go to the park, so he might not actually be there?”
“I know. Let's go!”
So away we went.
As soon as we arrived he started looking everywhere for Colin, riding his bike to different parts of the park and checking out every person. We spent at least half an hour darting back and forth, me tagging along behind him and his series of frequently repeated exclamations.
“I think I see Colin!”
“There's a new car pulling into the parking lot. Let's go!”
“That has to be Colin!”
“Let's check over there!”
“Let's take a break and wait here—by the parking lot.”
“That has to be Colin!”
We repeated the process at a random time the next day, though with less conviction and assurance. Through it all he kept his spirits hopeful. At the end of that first evening there was a moment of slumped shoulders, head hung, quiet mourning, but not actual defeat. I did my best to find a balance between being supportive and not disillusioning him while offering bits of realism to soften the expected moment of final disappointment.
This child is our joyful optimist, always ready (unless angry) with a cheerful comment and an offer of empathy, but this might have been his most daring act of optimism ever. And it so much took me back to my own youth of fortyish years ago in a small Kansas town. Before cell phones, of course. We rarely planned play dates or even called on landlines, just wandered about hoping to bump into friendly faces or, at most, knocking on doors hoping it was a good time to hang out. Now everything is so much more scheduled and connected and intentional. Despite its disappointed ending, something about following him around the park that evening from person to person, place to place was so full of innocence and hope that I felt it too. I don't usually do nostalgia and a desire for “the good old days,” but that moment felt special to me.
Some other recent anecdotes with the kids . . .
[Younger] heard a lyric in a song this morning.
“Dad, what does 'ramshackle' mean?”
“It means old and run-down and falling apart. Kind of like the siding on our barn.”
“Haha! You're ramshackle.”
I . . . I can't really argue your point . . .
Just heard [Older] in the other room tell his piano teacher during their Zoom lesson: “I am not [Older] I am just his skin.”
This is the same kid who not long ago designed his toy train track to be the shape of the infinity sign surrounded by a spiral. He seems to have a metaphysical bent.
I asked [Older] tonight if his brain was getting bored doing a nature camp for summer, with no academic learning. “Nah, that's okay. I'm pleased with the amount of snakes.” Well if we'd known that was going to be your criteria for judging camps . . .
At pickup he'd asked me to stay so he could show me around, then proceeded to point out each of the 9 places that he has seen snakes (counting the dead one) so far (in 7 days), one at a time. “I was the first to spot 4 of them.” He described each sighting in explicit detail. Then asked me to search for more.
[Older] told me at camp today he spun the merry-go-round so fast he made a girl throw up and get sent home.
We've determined he did spin her, she did vomit, and she did go home. We're not sure about his claim of causation.
Though given the other potential causes and the possibility of contagion, we're kind of hoping his story is true.