The kids have grown up going to Harn Park, a block-long park in Oklahoma City that doubles as a crabapple orchard. In spring, the blossoming trees that line the edges of the park create an elegant public space. What I love about the park is that in our compact, urban neighborhood, it offers an open space that can be good for flying a kite.
The crabapple blossoms were long gone when we took the kids to fly their Minion and Avenger kites one late August morning. It was definitely the last gasping petal of summer with the kids sporting ratted-out pool hair and feeling pressed-down by the start of school.
We’re always excited for new beginnings — new backpacks, new lunch boxes. New tennis shoes and school supplies. But, I was less enthusiastic about the start of 3rd and 4th grade than the start of any other school year. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it except to say that Robert and I have faced major decisions since May and some are just too hard to tell. I bet you’ve faced hard decisions, too, because, it’s going around. This thing called living.
One thing that isn’t hard to tell, however, is that these kids are growing up so damn fast. Somebody stop the train and let me get off and enjoy Sully at 10 for just a few years. Three would be nice. Maybe seven. Yes, I would like to enjoy Sullivan at 10-years-of age for at least seven years. Then we can move on to 11, which I will enjoy for at least nine years.
My father always said boys need places to run. The biggest regret of my parenting years is that I raised Sully in the city. It is not what I wanted, and now 10 years have passed. I could never wiggle my way free of the mortgage and short commutes. Oh, I wanted to, and have spent exactly 234 hours fretting about things like too much screen time. And, oh, yes, my son cannot identify all the native trees. He doesn’t know a Lace Bark Elm when he sees it! ‘Tis true I have failed to extricate myself from the concrete decisions of this mortgage and historic living. But, at least I have Harn Park, and I’ve loved every minute here. Would have been better with a gloppy green marsh and bright blue dragon flies and maybe a cow, but I kiss the ground of this wide open space near my home.
I’ve known my friend Mary for about 25 years. We meet for coffee sometimes and I swear, the grayer her hair gets the more frequently she tells me that blue skies are ahead for me. “Blue skies for you, Jen,” she always says. Later, at night, when the kids say their prayers, I repeat her beautiful psalm:
Blue skies ahead for you, Juey.
Blue skies ahead for you, Bridgy.
Blue Skies ahead for you, Sully.
Just so you know, when I named my kids I had no idea they’d all end up with a nickname ending in Y.
Yes, blue skies.
But, sometimes your kite gets caught in a tree. It totally sucks. It also doth sucketh when your ball of string becomes a tangled mess.
But, still, we fly our kites — or try to — broken, knotted string and all.
We humans have a lot of hope and I hear it can spring eternal.
This girl right here is my doll baby. Yes, she’s eight. Yes, I still call her doll baby. (Not in front of her friends if I want to not get fired from being her mom.)
Bridgette, you are the pure light of morning. Tumbling rays through an aging kitchen window, light falling on a cold stove. I am the kitchen. For you, I rise up to bake — breads, cookies, pies. You, my child who admits fault without prodding. “I’m sorry I lost control and took things out on you…” Magical you, Bridgy, perfectly imperfect. Kind and magnificent. Never change. And, at all cost, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.
The same goes for you, Juey, heretofore, Juey-Save-A-Squirrel.
My 17-year-old saved a squirrel, y’all. I couldn’t be prouder! (But only after I was assured it did not have rabies!)
Take note, colleges. This right here is a future humanitarian. Probably will start out as an art teacher or photojournalist before putting it all together to advocate for the world’s 40 million low-paid garment workers. The good Lord has grafted cause right into her heart. She bleeds fairness, sings justice, lives pro vita.
Keep smiling and saving things, Juey, above all your sweet self.
But, back to the trees.
There is a poem by Shel Silverstein called Help!
I walked through the wildwood, and what did I see
But a unicorn with his horn stuck in a tree,
Cryin’, ” Someone please help me before it’s too late.”
I hollered, “I’ll free you.” He hollered back, ” Wait-…
Do you have insurance? Have you washed you hands?
And after you free me-tell me what then?
Can you guarantee I won’t get stuck again?…
When it comes to me, I just tear the kite right out of the tree. If I had a ladder, I would use it to get the kite, but who takes a ladder to the park?
So, I jumped like a wild banshee trying to catch the tail and the string of the kite and pull it away from the branches. Sully was walking away sad when the kite gently floated free.
And, this is just like life. There is a little soaring in between all the wriggling, and always one seems to beget the other.