This piece is a product of a prompt from my "Writer Wednesdays" group I started last year on this blog (should we start that up again? I'm strongly debating it). It remains one of my favorite pieces that I've written, and it's superbly creepy and dark, which is right up my alley. I'm at my best when I write dark and twisty. Enjoy, and try not to think of me as a serial killer in your sleep tonight. Happy Halloween!
Sometimes you get lucky enough to have a perfect, quintessential day.
The other day was just that.
Multiple times a week, cooped up kids and harried moms hear the strains of playing outside, and wander out from their respective apartments onto the joint compound at Winston Court, affectionately known as the Toy Graveyard, and gather together to have sane adult conversations while the kids burn up all the energy that was making us crazy 10 minutes earlier. Sometimes we congregate by the swings that are always being fought over. Other times we sit on concrete steps of a building and hand out shovels and snacks and wipe noses and referee squabbles like it's our job (it is). If it hasn't been raining we'll sit in the grass with backs to a mossy tree, dusting off the occasional mosquito and picking at dead leaves on the ground, talking about inconsequential things like parenting and the arrival times of husbands on the bus, or our lack of dinner plans or how much we like pizza and what antics our kids are up to that day.
It's relaxing and full of camaraderie. Something as simple as sitting in damp grass chatting about nothing and everything while our kids get filthy dirty playing in rocks and splashing in mud puddles makes me feel closer to my friends then a lot of things do. We usually stay out as long as we can, only darkness or hunger or returning husbands can get us back inside, but sometimes even those don't work. We delay the inevitable boredom that being trapped in a small apartment with prison windows brings.
On this particular day when the witching hour was hitting its peak and I was wondering how I'd get through the rest of the day, I heard that tell tale sound of laughter outside, looked out my window and saw our good friends playing in the fallen leaves and digging in the gravel on the road. I hurried to get kids dressed and feet shod and we trudged out into the crisp autumn air.
Viv saw her friends Stu and Graham across the way and called to them like she usually does "Mom! Stu and Daham! Let's do it!", so we crossed the street and joined them in their leaf-piling endeavors. They were slowly filling a small ditch in the ground with dead leaves, and by the time we got there, the pit was pretty full and a prime spot for jumping. Per usual, my friend and I sat in the grass nearby and let our kids do their thing while we took a break from little mouths talking nonsense 24/7.
Inevitably, the leaf piling turned into leaf throwing, and a war ensued with much giggling and leaf bombing. I've never seen kids so happy as they were when they ran down the hill, jumped into the big pile, getting tangled up with each other and throwing big armfuls of leaves into each others faces.
And, like it always does, the sound of fun being had floats through open windows and kids come out in droves, joining and adding to the chaos. Soon we had more friends join us, and Dale got home early. He's never one to leave something alone if he thinks it can be better, so he grabbed a big shovel from a nearby porch and started shoveling all the leaves off of the hill and into the pit, resulting in a humongous pile of with enough insulation to keep them from ever hitting the bottom.
Dale used the shovel to throw huge amounts of leaves in the air, and they scattered around the dancing kids, getting stuck on clothes and faces and entwined in wild hair while they giggled in hilarity as leaves chased them.
There were so many smiles and so much laughter that day. No fighting, no problems, only fun for the entire evening. The leaf pile (or leaf PIT as they so adamantly wanted to call it) provided endless entertainment, so much so that I had time to sit and enjoy it, and then get my camera for candid shots of so much joy.
We stayed on that hill for a long time, wasting away the day in perfect autumn weather, enjoying the company and happiness of the moment, simple dead leaves keeping our kids entertained the entire time.
If there is anything I will remember about our time here in Ithaca, it will be these lazy days with good friends, sitting outside talking and sitting in shared silence that only good friendship can bring without things getting awkward.
These are my favorite times. And this day? Well, it was perfect.
She came out of her room three times tonight, dragging her white blankie, her ragged bunny, a bouncy ball and a cat pillow with her. She would discreetly lay down next to the wall within eye shot of my bed, glancing up at me to see if I saw her, and then quickly pretend to be asleep when I would look at her, eyelids fluttering, a hint of a smile on her face, completely serious about sleeping on the floor. The first time I carried her back to her bed, tucked her in and kissed her good night. The second time I made her a little bed out on the floor in the hall, telling her to go to sleep or else. But the third time I looked up to see her bashfully standing in my doorway, dressed in her pink santa jammies, curly hair wild, smiling a little crooked smile and saying “Cats! Hats!” (her pillow has cats wearing hats on it).
My heart melted, and I told her to come to me so I could hold her. She climbed into my lap and I asked her where she wanted to sleep tonight. She grinned and said, “Mom’s ded (bed)”, and she quickly crawled over my protruding belly and onto Dale’s side. We have a strict no sleeping with mom policy, but sometimes I feel nostalgic and sad that time is passing by so fast and my days are full of everything else but spending time with her. I gave in. I cuddled up next to her, and she looked over at me with her pretty doe eyes. She excitedly whispered, “swimmin’! ‘self!”, because just yesterday she went swimming on her own with floaties on and found a new type of independence. She’s been so proud since then.
Much rolling and tossing and turning ensued after. He little eyes fluttered, sometimes wide awake and staring, sometimes barely open, fidgety, trying to find a comfortable spot on all the pillows and sheets and body in the bed. Finally, she faced me and snuggled into a nest of pillows, lacing her little fingers through mine. I started singing her some primary songs, and gradually I felt her breathing slow and deepen, her body relax and her eyes still. I tangled my fingers into her curly hair, and rested my forehead on hers. Her soft hair tickled my nose and I could feel her sweet breath on my face, slow and even. I faintly smelled her coconut shampoo and twisted a particularly curly ringlet around my fingers, marveling at how very beautiful she was. I traced her tiny fingers with mine, feeling how soft and delicate and babyish they were, her fingernails rudely painted purple and red with nail polish, curators of such silliness during the day. Her forehead beaded with sweat, so I pushed her hair back and kissed her baby cheeks, because although she seems grown, those chubby cheeks keep the toddler at bay during the night. Kissable, sweet and home to so many broad smiles brought by childhood happiness, I see my baby in those cheeks when she’s peacefully dreaming of sunglasses or her daddy (both which she woke up crying about the last few nights).
Right now, she has her arm entwined with mine, and I think about the little tummy that I nourished, the curly hair that I created, those perfect cheeks that I know how to make smile – they inspired me tonight. I love her beyond my best words. She’s perfect. I want to remember that forever.
We got some family pictures taken the other day, and I snapped the shot above, trying to capture the beautiful light and my daughter looking ethereal. I wanted more, so dressed her up and went to find more beautiful light and the last summer flowers. Turns out I'm not so good at catching pretty light....but still. She's just so beautiful it makes me want to cry like a hormonal postpartum mom (wait...i am that).