Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Extraordinary Education

One of my favorite things about the house that we are currently living in is that when you are outside, it feels like you've stepped back in time. I can walk down the sidewalk and picture little girls rollerskating in our driveway, wearing their 1970's terrycloth jumpers and knee-high socks, with high yarn-tied pigtails on the sides of their heads.

Bruno's Market sits anchored in the gray house at the intersection across the street. It has neon lights in the window and a tall 7-UP sign in the side yard. The owner has seen families coming and going from the neighborhood for years. He is Italian and sells carry out pizza that he makes on-site, candy, milk, and other odds an ends. He jokes with his patrons and acts slightly put out at the sight of a debit card. He's old school like that.

On my way home from there the other day, the air was wet and saturated with the scent of conifer and earth. I was breathing it in and realized that it's been a long time since I've really let the freshness of the outdoors deep into my lungs; I miss being alone to take walks and how they force me to become more aware. My thoughts untangle and I can feel my body's parts interacting with each other, trying to find their rhythm.

So now I'm trying to get out more.

If I wander from our house and to the right, I pass a mixture of older and newer homes and apartment complexes. The park where I take my kids to play is there, too. Over from it, wait vacant lots dressed in tall blades of yellow grass, as if forgotten by a boyfriend who's made unfulfilled promises to get his life back together. You can tell that the land, at one time, had hoped to be more and is now learning to just be.

On the last sunny day that my children and I were at the playground, we stayed there for hours proportionate to the amount of cabin fever we'd been experiencing. They bounced on play bridges instead of off walls and ran and played games with Spanish speaking children that came in droves from the surrounding complexes. I watched my littles burn energy and read The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict out loud to my oldest until the four year-old needed to be pushed in the swing.

As I was helping her, a young boy outside of the fenced-in play structure began to ride off along the encircling paths with her tricycle.

"Hey, buddy…?"

I said this to the back of his head several times as I walked the perimeter. Almost full circle, I stood at the fence's opening and face to face with a little girl who knew him. We locked eyes and it occurred to me that he had not picked my voice from out of all the others, because nothing about it was familiar to him.

"He does not understand what I am saying, does he?"

His cousin shook her head that he didn't. It's been almost fifteen years since I felt comfortable with my Spanish but as he came around to see my face, I tried again.

"Puedes andar en bicicleta, pero no te alejes. Okay?"

I tried to tell him that he could ride it, but not to go too far. A lady who had been sitting and watching the kids, and our situation, asked me why I had not done that sooner. Oh, where to begin?

The little guy tired of the tricycle and soon moved on to my older boy's bike.

I checked to make sure that this was okay, first, because he was so small. I learned from his mom that he was only three but like my youngest, he has to keep up with the big kids.

He rode circles around us and we shared the common language of motherhood.

This post was linked up with Heather's Just Write, an exercise in writing our ordinary and extraordinary moments.

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