I came here today for a semblance of normalcy. My youngest child learned to walk – and to talk in a world where he barely left home, where all the parks were closed, where masked faces became normal, and where he often reminds me to get his dinosaur mask before we exit our minivan. He has never taken steps inside of a grocery store. He has not played with children his age. On this, his first ever playground day, he just turned two years old. As I watch him, I wonder at his approach. His steps are curious as mulch crunches under the soft soles of his leather shoes – deep blue with a fading gold crescent moon on one foot and the golden sun fading on the other. This is a whole new world for him. He is the kind of kid who hides behind me, holds my legs, calls for me in every circumstance in a way that reminds me of a tv show I watched in the 90’s… everyone else in his world is simply, not the mama. It takes me by surprise that he begins to confidently climb the tallest ladder. I wonder if I can fit inside the playground equipment if he gets stuck, if he panics. I wonder how I will not panic. I wonder what will happen if another toddler approaches him or takes his turn in line for the slide. This is one of so many first opportunities he will have to show his nature out in the world.
I am in awe that he keeps choosing the tallest ladder, and that he navigates it so well. I am in awe that he seems to have no sense of can’t. He moves faster than I have ever seen him and I am suddenly so keenly aware of the fences around this playground, so grateful for fences. He doesn’t seem to be aware, as I deeply am, that he has never done a single one of these things. He is not timid. He is confident. He moves quickly, far away from me, through three, then four, levels of playground equipment. I am suddenly aware of how small he is and how easily he could fall. Because we were trying to avoid people, in a city far away from home, we ended up at this park just before sunset and now the sun has set and darkness came much more quickly than I thought. He found some wings, here on this playground today. I wonder how quickly it will feel like the sun set on not just this first moment, but on his whole childhood. I wonder how dark it will get, then, and how many moments I can treasure in the twilight.