A little bit of magic happened tonight, and it was more than I had any reason to hope for after the day we’ve had. Yes, I know I had big plans for a nap and some wine, but it didn’t shape up to be that kind of day at all. By the end of the afternoon, we were all a bit cranky and tired of each other, so we headed to Home Depot and Target, with the mission of finding a few things to pretty up the back patio. It’s been looking very drab lately, and I thought that a few new pillows for the chairs and some new tile for the table would make all the difference.
We came home with arms full, and we got to work. After lifting out the old tiles from the table frame, I set the new ones in place, a change that lifted my spirits immediately. Girl put the new pillows on the chairs, and we lit a candle in the lantern that’s been sitting there empty for months.
Earlier, I told the kids that if we finished our project, we could sit outside on the patio and enjoy the new look. Girl, especially, was delighted by this.
When I say that we never use our patio, it’s not much of an exaggeration. We have a desert backyard, with little landscaping, and it usually looks pretty barren. But things have really grown in over the winter, and everything is blooming, so it’s lovely at this time of year. I’ve been embarrassed by the state of the patio all these months, and have missed using it. This was just what we all needed, especially after the long day we had.
“Are we going to sit outside and talk?” Girl asked, her voice full of excitement.
“Yes, yes we are.”
“Boy!” she called inside. “Come outside! We’re going to sit outside and enjoy the patio!” Yes, she said that. It was very sweet and hopeful, and I felt about an inch tall, like I had been depriving all of us of that particular pleasure for a very long time. It took 15 minutes, plus the trip to the store, and not that much money to transform the patio from plain to warm.
We sat there, talking and watching the candlelight cast a pattern through the scrollwork of the lantern and onto the ceiling. Stars blinked into view. Girl led our discussion on a meandering path through the topics of new friends, our lives (what things we like), and then onward to a talent show of their favorite dances. She loves to dance, so she gave the longest performances. They were more elegant than Boy’s, but he showed a lot of enthusiasm.
As the sky grew darker, constellations appeared and I pointed out Orion and Cassiopeia. Then, to my surprise, Boy found the Big Dipper on his own. And then the Little Dipper. On his own. I’m sure I’ve pointed them out before, but not recently, so his specific knowledge of both of them had to have come from books or a very good memory. He has read a few children’s books about astronomy, but it still surprised me how fast he found them both. He was very pleased with himself, as I was.
We sat down again, and the Girl sang a song that she swore she made up right then, on the spot. (Who knows. The words mostly made sense.) It was just peaceful listening to her and watching her dance around, both on the patio and in the yard. Not afraid of bees (as she usually is) or of bugs or lizards on the ground (as she always is). She was just free and happy.
At almost any point earlier in the day, I would not have expected to see that side of her personality today. The Boy had been grumpy, too. We all needed this. It was nothing, just to take the time to be outside and look at the sky and at each other, without interruption from the phone or the computer or TV. Just us. All that mattered were the words we said and what made us laugh and how beautiful the sky looked. The timeless stuff that can sustain a soul.
The truth is, we didn’t need new pillows or tile in order to enjoy this evening. All we had to do, all along, was take two steps. Two easy, hopeful steps outside.
Before we went back into the house, the Girl asked, “Can we do this every night?”
Most likely not, not every night or even most nights, but more of them. It wasn’t so hard. We will try.
Psst…Go wish flutter a Happy Birthday!