The children were in good spirits on the walk to school today because they rummaged through a big cardboard box marked "FREE" on the side of the road. They each picked out an armful of items and dumped them into the stroller's storage basket, items that I'm sure someone was equally thrilled to get rid of as I was unenthusiastic about getting it: a stuffed ghost, a felt Frankenstein, cheap red salad tongs, a plastic Dodgers cap, pink mittens too large for any child, and a cookbook that looked like it'd been left outside during the rain.
Lee and Rose danced little jigs on the walk to school and talked about how much they liked rummaging through boxes marked "FREE" on the side of the road. They had thoroughly exhausted the subject when they asked me if I shared in their joy, and I replied truthfully in the affirmative because their joy had infected me. There's nothing quite like seeing my children full of glee even if I must secretly make their stuff disappear in the future.
Tighter discipline, more hours of sleep, and some newly found freedom has released me from my resentment at the trouble my children cause, and I feel more free these days to delight in their antics. Just yesterday we were sitting down to dinner. When Lee didn't appear, I went looking for him and found him writhing on his bedroom carpet with his soft blanket wrapped snuggly around his head and arms.
"I'm trapped!" he said in a voice that did not at all sound panicked. I chuckled and "saved" him from being consumed head to toe by the blanket, remembering similar episodes from Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes.
It is practically impossible to feel dampened this time of year with a sudden burst of warm weather following on the heels of so much rain. The Whittier Hills are as green as Hobbiton. The smooth rolls in the hills are tinged with yellow mustard, and the crevices are accentuated by the darker and more permanent scrub bushes. Neighbors' neglected front yards look like wild country fields dotted with yellow and purple flowers. The rains have washed Whittier's majestic old trees clean, and everything feels fresh and shiny.
The beauty of our city struck me yesterday as Phil and I hiked Turnbull Canyon trail and then down Hellman's Park. The older kids were spending the night at grandma and grandpa's, and baby Benny we put in the carrier for the hike. The grasses on the hills were so thick and juicy. And the wild mustard has grown above our heads. We could see where the new growth from this year has completely covered the widened portions of the trail that were bare with over-use just a few months ago.
The Santa Ana winds were blowing from the east, and we could see Catalina and the Hollywood Sign and the snow-caped San Bernardino Mountains. The sky was as blue as could be and fellow hikers cooed at sleeping Benny.
It was a day for the beach, so after the hike and church we headed down with In-N-Out burgers and little Max Oldenburg. Again the children's excitement was infectious. They chatted excitedly all the way down, holding their breath beneath bridges and pointing out blimps and two Osprey tiltrotor aircrafts.
Phil and I both sent up prayers for good parking, and when we accidentally parked in a one-hour-only location, a sun-burnt lady with unnaturally red hair came out of her tiny house and offered us her parking pass.
We gathered our troupe, hamburgers, chairs, and baby and stepped into the fine sand of Seal Beach. There is nothing quite like the beach. That fresh salty breeze blows away all the cobwebs and household worries. The children run free and cover themselves in sand.
We plopped down beside a fit and freckled Christian lady with her four boys and plethora of sand toys. Max and Lee quickly made friends and played tractor-road-paving-catastrophe with the other little boys, while Phil put his feet in the water and sanded a new wooden spoon. Rose made piles of sand near me and I attempted and failed to convince Benny that sand between his toes is glorious. I chatted with the woman who unfolded her peculiar situation to me. Seems that she and her four boys live in Iowa and her husband works as a firefighter here in California. He stays in SoCal for several weeks working, and then flies home to Iowa to see family and home. She told me about how strange life is and difficult to figure out.
When the wind picked up, we gathered our things to go. The boys were so covered in sand, which they had unavoidably dumped into each other's hair, that I feared we'd have to strip them down to their underwear for the ride home. Not one to be left out, Rose asked if she'd have to stripe to her underwear too, and upon hearing that she wouldn't, she proceeded to sandy herself up a bit more.
As we headed out, I apologized to the older couple lying downwind from us. They smiled and laughed, assuring us how pleasant it was for them to listen to our boys playing like little boys ought.
Idyllic really. The whole weekend was idyllic. But I suppose the trick of having a wonderful weekend is not to be ensnared by the lovely times, but give thanks for them and open the palms again for a new thing.
Today must be for new things.