This week's missive from The Perth Courier, published on Tuesday, July 7/09.
Tumbleweed and Wading Pools
There’s a tree across the street that grows big fluffy pompoms each summer. I don’t know what it is, but I call it “The Tumbleweed Tree” because the pompoms turn brown and brittle and then roll down the street on windy days. I love it. After all, how many people in Perth can claim their street looks like the Wild West for a while each year?
If that tree had been on the street where I grew up it would have been a perfect accompaniment to the fantasies I played out as child, wherein my bicycle was a horse and I would ride up and down the bumpy road, fuelled by the exciting adventures that ran in my head.
I think about this because Boychild has started to enjoy his own bike-riding adventures. In our neighbourhood it’s not as easy for him to run the roads as it was for me – at least not at his age – because our street is bounded at either end by busy arteries. Nevertheless, Boychild’s territory includes the sidewalks on a couple of blocks along with some parking lots that are usually empty.
I watch for him as he cruises past our window, pedalling in his serene way, and wonder what sorts of things he is imagining. Is he a dirt bike racer? An Olympic cyclist? A Harley rider? Is he pretending he’s driving a car along busy streets and highways or is he merely tooling the ’hood and taking in the scenery?
Similarly, I love to eavesdrop on him and Girlchild as they play. When Boychild is leading the game, it often involves some sort of fort. There is espionage and contests and hiding and “getting bad guys.” Occasionally they play house. Sometimes Girlchild wants to play school, but that doesn’t usually hold Boychild for long and he wanders off, so she is forced to employ the cats or her dolls as students.
I’ve had a lot of childhood envy lately as I watch them frolic outside together. Everything – from the pleasant camaraderie and joyful play to the eardrum-shattering sibling rivalry and squabbles – reminds me of how my brother and I used to play together as kids and how much fun we had, even when we were half-heartedly trying to kill or maim one another. (Incidentally, I don’t bother to complain or commiserate with my mother about the screaming and fighting parts because I know she will just point and laugh and laugh. Karma, much?)
Last week, on one of those gloriously hot sunny days, I watched as the two of them cavorted in the wading pool together. Boychild was busy showing his sister how he could zoom across the bottom of the pool underwater and hold his breath. They made a game of it – racing from one end of the pool to the other. They made obstacle courses with noodles and Frisbees. They laughed and squealed – the happy sounds, not the plate-glass-busting ones.
Increasingly I am feeling the urge to make time take precedence over anything else. Everything else. Of course it’s easier said than done, and summer is always challenging.
I admit to having some seriously mixed feelings when school ended for Boychild because that meant everyone would be in the abode – including two parents working from home. It can make for a crowded house – and I don’t mean the band. Then I looked at the calendar. Golly – we’re already a full week into July! Every day there’s something going on for at least one of us, and that doesn’t include the days when Groom-boy and I have work commitments. This summer is going to fly by – even when it rains. Okay, maybe not so much when it rains.
The point is, as the kids get older the time goes faster and it’s important to stop, look and listen. Savour these moments of joy by the wading pool. Encourage the free play on the bicycle. Feel the soil on our hands as we work together in the garden. Kick the tumbleweed around and whistle the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Not saying I’m looking for a gunfight or anything.
I’m glad I’ve got a new bike – now I can ride with my kids through the tumbleweed and into the sunset.