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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tag, you're it!

It's Saturday night in the suburbs. There's a mess of kids in the backyard, their expensive cars parked out in front. I just pulled in and junked up the landscape with my '97 minivan. I hear a lot of noise out there and it's all laughter, silliness, slipping and sliding and, no doubt, they're intimidating the heck out of the foxes cowering under the deck. I was invited to make a brief cameo appearance, and then uninvited, "mom, could you, like, go inside now?" Actually, it was more like an order, "go, bye bye." I like this, I like this very much. We are lucky beyond measure. Our high school daughters love to play silly games with their friends in the backyard. Or the family room. They're not out spending beaucoup bucks, or drinking, or being thugs. They are, at this moment, playing tag. These little things are the best parts of life. I'm closing my eyes to take it all in and record it in my mind, the sight of tie-dye shirts and redheads and plaid bermuda shorts and stripes and jeans and brown and blonde heads, and I'm listening intently to their goofy remarks and rowdy laughter, hoping to tuck it all away so I can still see them, still hear them long after they are all gone and I'm stuck away in a nursing home somewhere. Ooo, that's maudlin. Never mind. The shushing sound aspens make as they shimmer in the late sun, the true blue canopy of sky, the glint of silver leading a jet contrail, and the black and white blur of dog rushing around in the midst of the frenzy. Boys and girls voices, soft and loud, high and low, trills, fifteen teen-agers talking at once, more giggles, guffaws. "This way, no that, no this, over there, try that," and then it all dissolves -- again -- into laughter. Is this heaven? On this night I think, "I was made for this." This is what it's all about. Not the hokey pokey, not some bunch of titles and achievements, not the trophies and plaques and ribbons. But this. Not even the published titles for sale on Amazon or the bullet-points on a resume. This. This is what I was made for, to revel, to laugh, to love the life I'm part of. What a luxury! To be here, now, to listen and watch, and even -- when they let me -- to play with them! It worries me sometimes, do my Polish mom friends get times like this? Most don't have big grassy backyards that serve as volleyball and badminton courts, playing fields and dance floors (dancing in the grass, well it sort of works), and multi-purpose silly-making space. Do they get to listen in and watch as their kids have fun? I'm not saying my life is better or worse, just that it's right for me. This is the soundtrack I want, the life I want to watch flowing past. But it's very different from the way moms -- and dads, and kids -- live elsewhere. Living in suburbia is its own trippy experience and it's one I never expected, never planned. But here we are. Not in the city where, I imagine, there would be get togethers in a park, or downtown. More movies, concerts, museums. All good. All good. That is what I remember of nights like this in Warsaw, herds of teens laughing as they wander into the Square, spilling out of the theaters, sipping coffee at Cava. Whatever, wherever, the kids will find ways to have fun. But tonight I'm thinking about the moms. And dads. This life is especially well-suited to parental voyeurism and I'm glad. The soundtrack of my life includes lots of kid-noise and, boy, am I glad. I hope my friends Margaret and Elzbieta and Marcin and Jurek, parents all, get to enjoy it too.

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