One of the main settings of my blog entries (which began infecting the Internets three years ago today) has been the playground, and a lot has changed. During the summer of '03, Robert and I were a unit. I was coping with losing a job, and he was learning how not to walk into things. We needed each other. Now, as soon as he skids his bike to a halt and carefully hangs his helmet on his handle bars (Daddy's boy, no doubt), he skitters off into some fray or other, leaving me to look up from my book occasionally and make sure no one's being strangled.
It's a fine arrangement, but I admit I miss the days when I was his chief playmate, his primary source of fun-fun-FUN. Robert may be feeling the same way, now that TwoBert is walking and sucking up so much of his parents' attention. So when he asked me to play hide and seek with him the other day, we were probably both ready to revisit the good old days.
Herewith, a transcript:
4.15 pm: I hold my hands over my eyes and count s-l-o-w-l-y to ten. Within half a nanosecond I spy Robert's feet sticking out from under the fire engine. I wander aimlessly like a furloughed mental patient for a few moments until I circle over and point him out. He is ecstatic to be found; I resist trying to instill a more competitive instinct.
4.18: Robert crouches down and counts to ten very quickly, onetwothreforfisixevneightnineten, affording me precious little time to throw my body under a bench and bark my shin on one of the legs.
4.19: Robert walks within two feet of me and heads toward the big fort with the curly slide.
4.21: I crane my neck for a look around, and Robert is by the swingset talking to a kid with a red shirt and a toy truck. I lie back and scratch at whatever is crawling on my knee.
4.22: No sign of Robert. I peer at the underside of the bench and count gumwads.
4.25: I prairie dog once again. Robert is running around at the farthest end of the park and pushing the truck ahead of him; he is pursued closely by an aggrieved Red Shirt. I debate leaving my hiding spot and persuading Robert to return the vehicle. Surely, this is the proper thing to do.
4.26: I doze off.
4.30: I awaken to nearby shrieks, none of which belong to my son. He is on the swings with Red Shirt, the truck lying on its side nearby. The boys have apparently forgiven and moved on.
4.32: I roll out from under the bench, massage my toes back to life, and take a seat. I hope that Robert will see me in plain sight and remember that we're playing a game here, goddammit.
4.35: Robert gets off the swings and walks right past me toward the fire engine. I start emitting high-pitched yelps that lead to a coughing fit.
4.36: Oblivious, Robert guides the fire engine to the 300th fire this week. How can all this playground equipment be so flammable?
4.38: I start calling Robert's name, and this conversation ensues:
R: Why are you calling my name?
Me: I'm giving you a hint.
R: I don't need a hint.
Me: Oh. I thought you were having trouble finding me.
R. But you're right there.
Me: Yes, but you walked right past me.
R: I know that.
Me: So why didn't you say anything?
R: I was busy thinking other things.
An utterly defensible gambit, to which I have no response.
Me: Do you want to keep playing?
R: Absolutely! My turn to hide!
4.45: I count to ten again, look up, and see Robert under the same fire engine but--and this is the crucial point--his position is perpendicular to the last one. I begin another Aimless Walk.
4.46: From over my shoulder: "Daddy! Do you need a hint?"