5/31/18

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Early this week, I was stopped at a stoplight as I went to pick up Olivia from school. There were happy shrieks coming from a playground, so I took a look. Running from the swings to the slide and playhouse and back again were two girls. I watched as they ran and shrieked and played with abandon. They weren’t in Oshkosh B’Gosh overalls, but oh-so-today ripped jeans and crop tops. Their hair was flying, but it was a controlled fly, held with perfectly placed headbands and clips. They were at least middle school age, maybe high school.

But they played. As the light turned green and I pulled away, I fell headlong into a memory.

One week before my first wedding, back in June of 1981, when I was a month shy of my twenty-first birthday, I had a sense of sinking, not elation. I was going to be married. I wasn’t even out of college yet. I hadn’t yet worked a full-time job. I hadn’t had the responsibility of bills and paying rent on apartments and utilities and owning a car. Yet I was getting married. And no, I wasn’t pregnant. I was so overwhelmed with potential adultness, adultness that I felt I had to face if I was going to take those steps down the aisle and take that man as my husband in front of my friends, my family (especially my parents, who said that my choice of husband was the only thing I’d ever done right in my life – hence the wedding that I wasn’t really ready for, but I was bound and determined to finally earn that approval), the priest, and ultimately, God. I was frozen with fear and worry and trepidation.

Then, out on a date one week before the wedding with the couple who were to be our best man and maid of honor, Bob, the best man, pulled over by a city park. “Let’s get out here,” he said.

Here? We were by a playground.

He grabbed me by the hand and pulled me out of the car. As we walked toward the swings, my soon-to-be husband followed, as did Bob’s fiancé. I started out slow. I bounced a little on the bouncy horse, my knees up to my chin. I let my fiancé spin me on the merry-go-round. I began to laugh when we sat on the see-saw and at its height, our feet still touched the ground.

And then I got on a swing. I flew. As my toes pointed toward the sky, I was six years old again, and I was hopeful and dreamy and the world was possible and I was possible and I could do absolutely anything.

Even walk down the center aisle of a church and get married, when I was oh so uncertain.

When we returned to the car, sweaty, dirty, giggling, Bob said, “You better now?”

“Yes,” I said.

And I wondered about the young man who picked up on my mood and my needs more than the man I was marrying. But it didn’t stop me. A week later, I was married.

It didn’t last, really. Well, it did, for seventeen years and three beloved children. But then I finally acknowledged the mistake I made and I left. You could say I pointed my toes toward the sky again that day.

On this day, at soon-to-be 58 years old, I soared again at the memory. My spirits lifted, like my toes did, thirty-eight years ago. I didn’t stop to play on the playground because I had a child to pick up, and because with my luck, I would likely get dizzy and fall off the swing, breaking a hip, a leg, an arm. But not my heart.

“You better now?” Back then, when I was almost 21, playing on a playground reminded me of potential, of play, of life, of profound joy. And now, at almost 58, the memory provided me the same thing.

When my daughter and I took off for our next stop, her job at a grocery store, she snarled about being old (she’s 17) and having to work and not being ready to be a grown-up. Later that night, my husband walked in and said, “I’m tired of adulting.”

I thought of those swings, my toes and the sky. I see a playground in our near future.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Olivia on the swings at the Wisconsin State Fair, years ago. Photo by Michael Giorgio – and what a good one!

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