Monday, December 18, 2006

Park in the Dark

The snow is gone. It's four o'clock before I chase down the girls to get socks and shoes on their kicking feet and coats on their twisting bodies. My brother calls as they are standing by the back door, the caller ID says BDGT INN MOTEL. He owes some guy some money, I have to interrupt him as he starts his story to say, "Listen, Ron, can you call me back in an hour? I really need to get the girls outside for a few minutes before it gets dark."

"No problem," he says quickly and I'm anxious that he won't call back, and add, "I really want to talk to you. Call me back."

"Okay, talk to you later."

We call it Purple Park because the house closest to the park is painted violet, with an even deeper shade on the trim. Their garden is a folk art gallery, with blue bottles on the tips of a tiny fruit tree, a deep koi pond. A tiny cowgirl-themed trailer named "Little Sis" is parked way in the back. Crispy dried Chinese lantern pods glow with no more luminescence than their orange color in the twilight. Art installations among the plants rotate through the seasons, a six-paned window frame hanging between two trees, a signpost giving the mileage to Ireland, Grandma's, the downtown coffee shop.

I watch the girls play, count the sparrows roosting high above in branches that are black against the sky. Seventy black huddling, chatting birds. The girls run madly in the chill. Is it Nora's lack of a nap that gives her this happy frenzy? Or have we escaped something debilitating and hope-stalling in the stale heated air of the house?

Mia asks us, "Is Christmas the next day? Is it tomorrow yet?" There are so many little happinesses coming up, parties at school and Randy's work. She even cried real tears one night, "I want it to be Christmas now!"

Here is where I can discuss myself as a child with language, with a shared history with my own mother. For it is the acquiring of the concept of time that distinguishes Mia's development now. Now, in these last days when she is still sharing my experience. In January, she will move on and have more time with her mother than I did. She'll no longer be my little glimpse into the past, my little Petri dish? My little time machine? I don't mean to unfairly project myself onto her experience .. frankly, I rarely recognize myself in her .. well, except for at the end of the Christmas party, after Santa's departure, when she danced around his chair on a sort of improvised stage and called out to her audience, "Now there will be a show," then danced in her hoppy, jumping un-self-conscious way that barely registers that an audience is watching, but exists solely for us. Hmmm. . . . Is that like a writer who resists publishing?

When it comes time to discuss religion, if we are to avoid the passive and dreadful "we're nothing," that could easily, lazily come out of inaction, then I need to simply say what I, and hopefully, if it is a worthwhile and worthy belief, we, believe. Not just what I doubt or find impossible to believe. I can imagine looking at them with joy and saying simply, "I believe that this life is all we get. So every day is absolutely precious." Nora can climb up the two round metal rails to reach the sliding platform now. And just this week she started pushing herself off to slide down the one with a double curve, giggling.

I can say "I believe that every night a child is born is holy."

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