Sometimes life’s surprises are terribly unpleasant. . . like when you discover that a much prized compact disk won’t play anymore . . . or observe one of your favorite voice students, whom you thought was an entirely sterling young man, “texting” during Carthage Choir rehearsals . . . or far worse, an e-mail comes that announces that a good friend has just been diagnosed with cancer.
It’s probably because of those unpleasant surprises – all experienced during the past several days – that makes me appreciate so much more the sheer delight of this afternoon’s entirely pleasant surprise, when I came home from “Godspell” rehearsal to find my wife in our backyard with the dogs – and our niece Lorelai! It turns out that Polly and Mark called while I was out, asking if Lorelai’s Aunt Kathy might be feeling a little bit lonesome. And of course, the answer was a most emphatic YES, which means that we had the wonderful pleasure of hosting our niece for several hours.
And the best part of the afternoon was when the five of us – Kathy, Lorelai, Bobbi, Ellie and me – took a walk down to Turek City Park, a lovely little park about three blocks from our house that is tucked away so snugly that we tend to forget all about it. Maybe one reason we forget about it is that it basically amounts to a big empty field, completely devoid of trees or even shrubs, in the middle of which is plunked a small jungle gym, a small set of swings, and one solitary picnic table. Yellowstone it ain’t! But for Lorelai it might as well have been Disney World. Well, maybe it didn’t quite equal Disney World – but our niece had a truly fantastic time there, and so did we. One of the things that makes Lorelai so much fun to be with is that she is my idea of the perfect balance between fearless and fearful. I can’t imagine being able to enjoy her if she was one of those little hellions who leap off of buildings just for the heck of it – nor would we enjoy her if she were one of those kids who cower in the corner, afraid of their own shadow. Lorelai is just brave enough to relish the world while respectful of its potential dangers. (I hope she never loses that balance.) It’s especially fun to see a small child having fun in the completely “unplugged” setting of a simple playground. . . not a television or computer in sight . . . and what could be simpler than a slide? or a swing? As I watched Lorelai enjoying herself so thoroughly, I realized that she was doing what little kids were doing one hundred years ago in parks across the country. In fact, once upon a time I would wager that Lorelai’s Grandma Jan was on a swing pretty much like this one, squealing with delight and saying “higher ! higher !” May such simple joys continue to delight our niece for a long long time to come.
pictured: Lorelai and her Uncle Greg. (Aunt Kathy was the photographer.)