Sunday in the Park |

Sunday in the Park

Record columnist

In about a decade we will just refer to him as tall. But now, as six is pushing seven, we add a modifier and explain he is tall for his age. Which is useful information to remember: He is a little boy still, not much longer, really, and this is part of that sweet spot of childhood you could miss with him if you saw just the tall, strong boy who is as big as his almost-nine-year-old cousin.

Though he is an only child in his family of origin, in the order of my three grandchildren he is the middle child and sometimes, when he with his cousins who he adores (and they him), he slips into that role. Izzie, the only girl, is the oldest. Axel, the youngest, happens to be in sharp contrast since is small for his age. Tyler is between them.

This summer, his mother, my daughter, put him for a few weeks in camp here in Park City, where she grew up and works now. The city program is reasonable and full of activities and field trips. Tyler has been having a grand time making new friends and having adventures.

Yesterday it worked out I could pick him up from the base camp in City Park. Tyler told me, as soon as we were alone, he had hurt his toe. After a through investigation I determined he had stubbed it on the slide. There was no bleeding or swelling but it was apparent it required attention. I asked if an ice cream would have the power to make it feel better. He assured me it would. I felt wise and powerful. I think he felt lucky he had fooled the old broad.

We drove through Burger King, the only soft-ice-cream place I know of, and grabbed two cones (I couldn’t let the kid eat alone) and I told him I was going to take him to my favorite secret spot for us to eat them. In just minutes I turned down the familiar street I have walked and ridden on for decades. Where the street dead ended we parked the car and walked into the quiet place where, as luck would have it, there no other humans.

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Right away he found the tiny wooden bridge over the creek and I joined him. I thought we would make boats with sticks and leaves like I’d done with his mother and uncle, but I was dismayed to see the condition of the creek. It was so overgrown, in fact, that you couldn’t really see the creek at all. Lush green plants and vines from the wet summer had grown wild and the water was a kind of shimmery canvas underneath the swirly viney brush.

Tyler was perfectly happy to run across the tiny bridge and back again and then go up the creek edge to find another bridge that looked "kinda scare-wee" to him. It was not two feet across and flush to the ground with links of wood instead of one solid piece. That was when I reminded myself that this tall strong kid was still a little boy, so I honored his fear and he followed me right across and back again.

The ice creams were still holding out. So we sat at one of the picnic tables and he told me about his day. When you are a parent, this can often seem like endless chatter and made-up adventures and tales that go nowhere. When you are a grandparent, this is music. You listen to the cadence and watch the body language and try to insert a thoughtful question to show you are hearing the words. But mostly you are mesmerized by the rhythm. And the freedom of expression in acting out the tale of, say, The Attack of the Red Ants during the Dodgeball Game. Which was clearly the most important thing that had happened in this day in the life of Tyler.

I knew his mother would be expecting him at my house soon, so I ever-so-reluctantly gathered him up and we drove the short distance back. Before she arrived we filled a few birdfeeders and put three new heart-shaped rocks in the tiny path in my garden. He assessed his spring handiwork in the reality of the snow peas we had planted and we both snapped one off the vine. We ate them right there with the sun painting his head full of golden curls more golden. "This is so, so good, Oma." And I knew I couldn’t have said it any better.

At the appointed hour, his mother came and scooped him up, but as he left he gave me one of those full-body hugs that wrap around your leg and waist, before he ran out to his car. They were gone in an instant and I was left to ponder the gifts of summer that are gone in an instant too. Gone on a Sunday (or a Thursday) in the Park…

Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.