It is not humid in Baltimore today. Which is no small miracle - and this from someone who loves heat most of the time. This morning, I saw goldfinches dancing in my pond (they have their own permanent gold unitards, lucky ones). The air feels more like Maine air. And it's clear and blue. A gorgeous day. My husband just sent me this photo, with the message: "Look outside. I love you." It kind of sums things up nicely:
I live in a neighborhood that embraces summer with an optimism that is as startling as it is familiar to me in some weird way. It is sort of unreal in its genuine civility and warmth. When we moved here, we were greeted with homemade cookies, preserves, muffins, and so many heartfelt welcomes. My next door neighbors, whom I adore and whose son I wish I could call my own, just stopped over and invited me to spend his second birthday with them on Wednesday at the National Aquarium. I'm their plus one guest. This little angel boy is quite surely the subject of an entry all his own; suffice to say that we sat on my porch swing this evening as he battled a newly diagnosed bout with the terrible twos and I, my own long and difficult day when I wished I could have used the terrible twos as an excuse for a wee temper tantrum on the floor. And he rested his darling cherub hand on my knee and the world felt alright.
That's the thing about my neighborhood - even though the world isn't alright, I live in this little slice of I don't know - Eden? - where people say hello from their bungalow stoops and remind my heart to quiet a moment and be mindful of what a home really is. Neighbors stop and chat and wave at joggers. My new friend Beth (I really like Beth) waves at me as she drives by. Lucas, the recent high school graduate, asks me about my garden and how my grass is growing. He falls asleep at night listening to our waterfall through his open window. That makes me enormously happy. The shy, sweet girl down the street walks her beloved rescue dog while two boys who live a few houses in the opposite direction race by on their bikes, wearing Batman and cowboy Halloween costumes. Awesome. The boy with the mop of wildly curly hair swings from a tree branch, and part of me wants to stand under him to catch him if he falls. But that child is nothing if not indestructible. He has perfected the art of swinging, and running barefoot --and jumping on the pogo stick, which he continued to do one evening with such abandon that he didn't immediately notice the blood pouring out of a spectacularly scraped big toe after a spill. Ten minutes with some hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin and a Band-Aid, and he was back outside. Tonight, I did a double take. He must have grown a foot since I saw him at the (wait for it....) Root Beer Float Social that the neighborhood children had at the end of the school year. When he perfected his pogo stick skills. And when he seemed so much younger.
Behind our house, there are two houses with families, each of which have three little girls. It is a constant slumber party, and the girls walk to and from the backyards in their bathing suits, their nightgowns, their sundresses. They call to my dogs from the top of their fort and they giggle and chase one another and swing in their swings and sing songs. And the parents sit on the porch, drinking a beer, and sometimes admonishing whichever wayward child (not necessarily their own) has hurt another child's feelings. Which you know, with six girls, is easy to do...
And then as I was closing my blinds this evening, I looked out to see a father teaching his son how to catch a ball. I thought of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. I thought of how much I wished, at various points in my life having read and reread the book over a series of New York and then Baltimore summers, I lived in such a place, troubled though it was in ways only Bradbury can put into words. And now I do. I also thought of Douglas Spaulding (the young boy in the novel), who declares that his summer will be a time of firsts: first root beer float, first run through the grass barefoot, first firefly caught, and so on...these firsts and lasts that define Green Town as a place where Nature and technology collide, sometimes in miraculous ways and sometimes in ways that point to evil, to a loss of something pure, to overlooking happiness when it sits right in front of you. We are lucky in this neighborhood that at this juncture, living as we do in Baltimore of all places, that a child can still have this, and that selfishly, I can witness it:
"I’m ALIVE. Thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don’t watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you’re doing and it’s the first time, really."
Sort of like catch.