Sunday in the Park |

Sunday in the Park

After weeks of working on days that most folks don’t, where days turn over into new weeks and weeks turn into new months, I found myself too long away from my little family, who only live down in Salt Lake City. I needed a kid fix, both mine and their offspring. I volunteered to pick up pizzas if we could gather for a midweek dinner. My children gathered their children and came to one house so we could catch up as best as one does at dinnertime with three kids under six.

I was immediately tackled upon entering the room, right at knee height by two of the three, with shouts of "Oma!" Which I could interpret as how very much they loved me and were so glad to see me and had been missing me as much as I had been missing them, or, hurray, the bringer of the pizza. Either way the hugs felt good.

My son had suggested I pick up pizza at a new place he found near the children’s pediatrician. He said the address was something like 20th South and maybe 850 East, but not really, you needed to go through an alley into a parking lot and across from Walgreen’s and well, you’ll find out, which strangely I did. It was a tiny hole-in-the-wall kinda place. The man behind the counter looked a bit like Sandra Bullock’s husband, his visible body parts 80 percent covered with tattoos. And yes, I imagined what the covered parts were covered with. Still, I was there on a mission and so I grabbed the paper menu to order as I had been instructed. But I couldn’t help notice the little sign by the registrar. It had the rules of the place 1) No pineapple 2) No ranch 3) No wearing of Red Sox attire 4) Eat it or beat it so succinct and to the point and immediately endearing. (My children and I have fought for decades about the misuse of Hawaiian fruit on pizza. It was comforting to have such support.)

Besides the pizzas, there were some things called garlic knots — pizza dough, knotted, brushed with olive oil and rosemary and accompanied by a red dipping sauce — breaded cheese raviolis and a garden mixed salad. When we started passing the feast around the table, I had to admit it was some of the best pizza I ever ate. Thin crusts for folding, lengthwise, as the restaurant had pointed out, fresh ingredients, saucy sauces and gooey cheese. We were eating and laughing, the little kids finished first and left the table to play.

I was sitting there, pizza and wine in hand, when the five year old, Izzie, put on a hand puppet made from a paper bag and implored me to "Look Oma!" which I did. I searched my memory banks for who the crayon-colored creature on the bag might be. "Well, hello, little bear face or dog face or whoever you are," I said, I thought, rather cheerfully. Izzie’s face clouded up a bit. My son, her father, leaned over and said, "I think it’s supposed to be a groundhog." "Ah, yes, I said, I see it now, you’re Phil, Phil, the groundhog." My daughter didn’t miss a beat. "And you live in Punxutawney," she added. For those who never saw the movie "Groundhog Day," this could appear as pure gibberish, but for a family bound together by movie experiences, it was a shared language and it was followed by much laughter.

Izzie is in faux kindergarten too young to be in public school and too precocious for daycare. Her parents found a private kindergarten, where her early-by-a-few-weeks birthday didn’t matter. Her class was talking about Groundhog Day — the event, hence the puppet. The grownups retold the seeing-your-shadow story and bet that Phil would see his, because he almost always does. Though there were a few sighs and votes for an early spring. And a few memories of the Bill Murray charcter and his penance to repeat one day of his life until he gets it right.

It seemed like we had just finished dinner and a few minutes of conversation when suddenly the kids were clamoring for their baths. Tyler, the three year old and an only child, especially loves to takes baths with his cousins and splash and tickle and giggle. The sight of three bare bums jumping on the parent’s bed, as the water was filling in the tub, is the one I wished I had brought my camera along for.

Amid all the giggles and gurgles, my daughter turned to me and said, "Is it hard to believe you once had little kids like this?" And I said, "Let me think, when you and your brother were five and three, I was " and my daughter broke in, "getting divorced." Randy shook his head, "No, that was later, we were five and seven." But I pointed out, five and seven, were the ages when we moved to Park City and I had been divorced two years already. I can’t be certain, but I think my kids looked at their kids and then looked at me with something I couldn’t quite define. Curiosity mostly. Rather like I looked at the arms of Pizza Boy. Still, the product turned out pretty good, interesting, fresh, and like life, sometimes rather gooey. All in all, delicious.

All too soon, the three wet towheaded, pajama-clad kids were giving me hugs and kisses as I bid them goodbye and headed up the hill. The clear night with the near-full moon made the drive seem otherworldly. I cranked up some new tunes and glided home. Where I wasn’t quite ready for sleep and I turned on "David Letterman" and who should appear but Bill Murray in a tuxedo with a bottle of champagne to celebrate 25 years of the Letterman show. He was so damn funny. And I remembered how he had appeared two summers ago at the sold-out Alison Kraus concert in Deer Valley. When I explained to him we had no more reserved chairs anywhere, as he arrived after the performance started and without a ticket, he said no problem and then plopped down on the grassy hill. Then he did a funny banter with me about presenting performers. It was just a moment, and I’d forgotten it all until I saw him in that tux on television.

When I finally turned out the lights and moved into a deep sleep I was dreaming about a big event I have to attend soon. All the fear was erased because my date for the evening was a tuxedoed, witty, Bill Murray, complete with champagne. My kids approved of my date, which has rarely happened in real life, and he loved the grandkids and, really, who wouldn’t? When I woke in the morning and heard the news that Phil, the groundhog, had not seen his shadow, I thought maybe I was still dreaming. And I also thought, what a strange year this is. And I also thought, I should reconsider eating pizza for dinner.

I’m not certain what to make of Phil. Or Bill. But I know the pay-off for a lot of hard years is three towheaded kids who, for now, still act happy to see me any day, which is a day I would be happy to repeat over and over, even if it’s not a traditional Sunday in the Park

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