I hold her little hand as we walk the four blocks to the park. My cat, Tigress, follows us part way until I tell her to go home. Tigress sits on the grass and watches us cross the street.
“Stay home, Tigress,” she admonishes. It’s 6:30 in the evening and the birds are chirping. A whistling symphony seems to be coming from the trees themselves.
“Listen to the birds,” I say.
She looks up and scans the treetops. “The birds,” is all she says in her tiny little voice.
We turn the corner and cross another street.
“Your mommy went to this school,” I tell her, as we walk alongside the Elementary.
“My mommy’s school,” she says.
We reach the park and make our way to the playground. Her eyes light up when she sees the jungle gym. I find myself shadowing her every move. I was never such a mother hen with my own kids.
“Let’s go on the swing.” There I will have her in a confined, safe place.
“No, the swing. Come, I’ll show you.”
We slog through the sandpit that is the playground and I lift her into a baby swing. She grabs on with a death grip. I get her going and then sit on a regular swing. I stick my legs straight out and lean back as far as I can, so that I’m horizontal as I stare up at the blue sky. I’m amazed at how quickly I feel like a little girl again. We swing until darkness surrounds us.
“Time to go home now.” I reluctantly get off the swing.
“I want to slide.”
“Tomorrow. We’ll come back tomorrow.”
We shake the sand out of our shoes and cross the parking lot on our way to the sidewalk. She points at a burgundy minivan parked close to the park entrance.
“I want a car.”
“What?” I bend toward her not sure I heard right.
“I want a caaaar.”
“You want a car?
“That’s not our car.” I can’t help laughing.
We walk half a block in silence.
“I want a car.” Her little finger points at a gray sedan in the school parking lot.
I start laughing again. I understand now; she doesn’t want to walk. She wants a ride.
“But, that’s not our car either. Are you tired?”
She is walking nimbly, her little hand in mine. But, I will carry her if need be. The moon is a translucent ball straight ahead.
“Look, let’s go touch the moon.”
“Touch the moon?”
“Yes, we’ll touch the moon.”
She concentrates on the moon as we walk again in silence. Rounding the school we pass a black F-150.
“I want a car.” Her tiny finger points toward the truck.
This time I don’t answer. I can’t. I’m laughing too hard. She thinks you can just take any vehicle if you don’t want to walk anymore.
I’m about to pick her up when she looks around concerned.
“Hey, where’d the moon go?”
“It’s right over there.” I point to our left. Her little face relaxes and she settles back into an easy stride. Someone is walking toward us and she becomes absorbed with the woman and her dog.
We turn the corner to our street and as we walk toward my house we pass by three cars parked near the sidewalk. Each time we near one, her little finger points and she makes her demand again. I haven’t laughed this much in years.
Finally we reach my driveway and she marches straight to my car. “I want a car,” she states.
I unlock it and open the back door. She climbs in and settles herself behind the passenger seat.
“Get in the car,” she says, pointing to the driver’s seat.
“But, we’re home now. It’s time for your bubble bath.”
She shakes her head and pulls the seat belt around her. Her face is resolute; I’m to get in the car. I only meant to let her sit in the car for a moment, to satisfy her want; I hadn’t expected that she would order me in as well.
I have no car seat so a drive around the block is not an option. Besides, I’m too much of a worrywart to chance these crazy roads with my precious grandchild. I have to come up with something much more attractive than a car ride.
My car is parked near the front door on our circular drive. I unlock it and turn around to find her still struggling to buckle the seat belt. I know she is as hot and sweaty as I am.
“Hey, let’s go inside and have some juice.”
Her head snaps up. “OK,” she says.