He is a whirling dervish dancing down the driveway, delighting in the monarch butterfly he chases. Up, up and away it goes. And then he turns to me with a big smile.
His mother is beaming, “It’s his first day of school,” she explains. “I mean, he’s only two-and-a-half but this is the first time he’ll be away with other kids for a couple of hours. He’s so excited.” Grandma and Grandpa, standing nearby, introduce themselves as they tend to bouncy boy’s baby brother—still a true baby.
As I smile and make small talk, my mind goes back in time. Two-and-a-half years ago, as winter waned in Chicago, I walked by this very house. Two small stork signs had been placed in the front yard, indicating that twins had been born. I smiled and then noticed the weight of each—one was barely over one pound and the other just under a pound. I said a silent prayer for these babies, born far too soon. Each day, as my dog and I walked by the house, I said another little prayer. The signs stayed up for a week or two until one day as I walked by, I saw only one sign. The larger twin’s sign still announced his birth. But the other sign had been removed.
I welled up a bit and said a prayer of a different kind. And my heart went out to this young couple, who for months had been steadily improving the fixer-upper they’d moved into.
The house was quiet for so long. There was none of the hustle and bustle a baby usually brings. I did not see either parent walking by with the baby in a stroller. It was just—well, quiet.
About a year ago, another sign went up in the yard—announcing another bouncing baby boy. This one was a healthy weight. And the house seemed to perk up. I saw toys in the yard, flowers in a pot on the stoop. I was happy for this family, even though I didn’t really know them.
So, as Bailey (my rescue dog) happily sniffed baby toes and Mom talked about how excited she was, I was smiling on the inside as well as on the outside. After every winter, a spring. We all should have that, in my book.
Bailey and I continue around the block, and I see a gaggle of elderly women marching like ants in a line. They’re heading to Kathy’s backyard. Kathy’s husband passed last year, and her house has been all too quiet during this pandemic. The grandkids aren’t traipsing in and out like they used to. But with vaccines comes hope—and activity.
These ladies, each carrying a lawn chair, head to her backyard for some socially distanced coffee and gabbing. I’m sure Kathy made treats. She is always making treats. And it looks as if these women called each other to ensure proper attire—they’re all in white clamdiggers, brightly colored shirts and tennis shoes. Their happy chatter carries and I hear snippets. “New doctor looks like he’s barely old enough to shave.” “. . . needs more discipline. Those kids run wild.” “Canasta. Tuesday nights.” Enjoy, ladies—especially while the weather lasts.
We return home and are hailed from the backyard. “Ms. Kristine! Hey, can I tell you something? Look! Look what I can do.” I glance to the yard near mine and see Miriam and her brothers (of previous candidkay notoriety) climbing and swinging and sliding—all the things we do as a kid that we’re sure no one else has ever done as well. And we simply must crow about it and be watched and applauded. I oohed and aahed and dutifully clapped. “Did you see we’re growing tomatoes, Ms. Kristine? How many red tomatoes do you have on your plant?” I counted three. “Ha!” she cackled. “We have seven. SEVEN. That’s a lot, right?” And the conversation went on, turning to astronauts, fossils and birthdays. Because, what else, right?
I share all the minutiae of my walk with Bailey here—why? Because life has been hard of late for many. We’re still fighting each other on the pandemic rules and vaccines. Here in the States, we’re fighting bounties offered to turn women in for making decisions about their own bodies. The news is filled with wildfires and variants and all sorts of things that will cause one to lose sleep.
But when I stay in the moment—this very moment—I can watch small boys chase butterflies, see families who have moved through huge grief smile again, and be kept on my ever-lovin’ gardening toes by a girl at least half my size. All delightful, in my book.
And all very necessary. Get out there, folks. Take a walk. Breathe. Sniff a few baby toes (that advice comes from Bailey, of course). We need to feel the good while we deal with the bad.
That’s life. And once around the block can do you a world of good.