With the sun streaming through the budding leaves and the chill of winter chased to the northern regions of the planet, I twirled in the patch-quilt-patterned dress my Grandma Rosemary made for me.
The blacktop of the drive was faded and cracked under my sandals. Easter was upon us. The sun was warm on my head and arms, and I sang. I sang about the sun, the flowers, the birds, and I spun and leaped across the cracks until I heard a car coming from down the street.
I stopped abruptly, my face flushed with a heat that flashed up from the fluttering butterflies in my stomach.
A thrill swept through me, and chased me to the front porch, up the steps and through the screen door. I beat it! I beat the car, and they (the people in it) never saw me! I would giggle, and then go back outside and do it all over again.
I must have been 7 or 8 years old when I played this game. I always abruptly stopped singing and dancing when I thought someone was listening or watching and most of the time would run into the house and hide.
I rarely sang songs that I had learned, although there were a few from church, like “On Eagle’s Wings” that I would sing at times. Mostly, I just made up my own lyrics, the joy of nature welling up in my most likely tuneless tunes.
Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to play with Mila, who calls me Grandma Jody, and who has fished out of me that little girl I once was –a little girl I have not thought of since my own daughters were small.
Together, we sing out of tune, play robot, rescue each other, run from the rain that falls indoors, identify the matching cards, put together puzzles, name animals and colors, count the sit-ups, discover cartwheels and handstands, count how many somersaults we can do in a row, and make snakes and pies from play-dough.
The best part of being round little people is that they remind me, if I let them, how amazing the world is.
Too often, we get bogged down in what we have to do, what we should or should not do, and how we should do just about anything,
That part of me that made running inside to hide, my play and joy was a game that reflects what we do to our children when we do not take part in their play with them — when we tell them to put down childish things and grow up.
This delightful part of us often is lost in the other necessary parts of growing up, such as controlling our emotions and learning when to joke and when to be serious.
I wonder if we are subject to go through this process of child-like wonder as we grow older, first as children, then when we have our own or raise or nurture other children, and then again as grandparents.
I have read so many poems and books about that loss of childlike imagination and innocence, but I have not understood it the way I understand it now.
I played and sang with my own children, but I was also disciplinarian and bread-winner. I felt I need to try hard not to lose myself in my role as mother and teacher, and that to be a healthy influence on my kids, I needed to work out and do something I loved, which has always been some form of writing, which is often a very solitary act.
I think that being able to intensely play with children for hours at a time, and then being able to walk away without feeling a sense of guilt or feeling as if you have shrugged off responsibility is a feeling parents cannot often enjoy.
I think spending time playing with toddlers is a joy that every adult should get to experience. It requires a reckless abandon and an imagination that constructs bridges and giants from nothing and leaves you laughing and exhausted on the floor of the jungle, toys strewn everywhere. Hope springs from the excited giggles of toddlers and reminds us that potential and possibility are limited only by our lack of imagination.