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Sunday in the Park

The photograph that rests next to my computer was hard to reconcile with the one that arrived via e-mail this week. On my desk is a sweet-faced baby with a rosebud mouth, sleeping in swaddling clothes. On my desktop computer came a picture of a confident-looking young girl holding something that looks like an awkward purse and wearing a not-too-fussy purple dress. My grand daughter, Izzy, who missed the public school cut-off birth date by one month, started in a private kindergarten this week.

Where does the time go?

I know the awkward looking purse in the photo is actually a kinda high-tech, lunch-carrying apparatus. I mean what do you call a lunch pail that isn’t metal? Is it still a lunch box? It’s made from fabric and has compartments for hot and cold things but not a big thermos like we used to covet and carry and always manage to break. I know about this lunch-carrying thing because Izzy took it with us last week when she and I went shopping for school clothes. It was brand new and too precious to leave at home and it seemed to add to her sense of the impending adventure of formal education.

So we did that thing that I now do only out of love, which is go shopping at a mall. We found a great store with a complete children’s department and tried on dresses and jeans and little fleecy jackets. Izzy thought she might want everything we took in the dressing room. About halfway through the trying-on process I reminded her that we wouldn’t be able to buy everything in the dressing room and we’d need to make choices. She chose to stop trying on clothes and figured she got everything she already had tried on. It wasn’t a hard bargain for her to strike and I couldn’t argue with her logic.

We ambled over to the shoe department where she picked out red and white Nike shoes that, to my mind, were tennis shoes made to look like old-fashioned Mary Jane’s. Aren’t these cool, Oma? she inquired. And I had to agree they were. And though I’m certain they have a much trendier name, I grabbed a handful of anklet socks with lacy little cuffs and threw them in the bag. And a couple of sparkly headbands.

When the first-day-of-school photo arrived this week. I smiled at the ensemble she had put together. Purple dress, red and white shoes, sparkly headband and the black and gray Spiderman lunch-carrying thing. On her feet I noticed a hereditary touch, she had one anklet perfectly folded over as designed, and one was being worn straight up and flat pulled up on her calve.

That’s when I got a little teary. I have a photo of her aunt, my daughter, at about the same age in a fabulous designer blue calico dress with a white lace pinafore and white lace bloomers. She has on fancy black shoes and white anklet socks with one perfectly folded over and one flat and straight and nearly up to her calve.

Where does the time go?

Last weekend, one of the few this summer we did not have to work, my daughter decided she wanted to go to Cedar City to the Shakespearean Festival to see "Hamlet," portrayed by a young man she attended college with more than a dozen years ago. His performance has been the rave review of the summer theater season. She invited me to go with her. It was an act of such thoughtfulness, I was flattered. I had planned on spending the weekend in a prone position reading a novel and letting the late summer breezes drift through the screen door. But I have learned at this stage in life, when a child of any age asks to spend time with you, you should take it.

Which is how we found ourselves stopping for gas in Circleville, Utah, where Butch Cassidy was born and buying local honey and muffin mix, wrapped in a calico bag, from the Lehi Mills. We arrived at our bed-and-breakfast lodgings with just enough time to shower and head to dinner. Where we spoke of many things. Of walruses and kings. Then we ambled over to the outdoor replica of the Globe Theater and discovered after all these years, something was still rotten in Denmark.

It was simply the most energetic, sarcastic, brilliant portrayal of Hamlet I have ever had the privilege of seeing. It was as if his role had been not staged but choreographed. He moved his arms, his legs, his whole body with such grace and such force, I was convinced he was not only the depressed Hamlet we have been taught, but a slightly madder and sadder character who was haunted by his father’s goodness, which was lost on his mother and his uncle and good friend, Polonius. Sweet Ophelia, beautifully, brilliantly, tragically portrayed, once again, did not get herself to a nunnery in time. She turned quite mad in front of us. Sang sweet sad songs, high-pitched and clear and then was off to drown herself amid garlands of flowers.

When treachery had overtaken all, the final scene was a duet/sword fight, a cup of poison and carnage all over the stage. (I’ve often wondered, did Shakespeare just get tired of these characters and decide he couldn’t write another act? Offing the entire principal cast is a strange kind of "family and friends plan." But I digress.)

In the gift store, we bought dried flower garlands entwined with colorful ribbons — four of them. And on Sunday, when we were dining and watching snippets of the Emmy’s at my son’s house, amid the children racing up, down and around and showing great cousin love with flying objects, the women of our little family myself, my daughter, my daughter-in-law and young Izzy all wore the garlands in our hair. It was a wee bit silly and elegant and connected us in a way that felt powerful and feminine and strangely ancient.

And when I drove up the canyon that night, still wearing my garland, I was amazed at the clear night sky and the brilliant stars. "Angels and ministers of grace defend us " I borrowed from the play and whispered as a prayer. These are precious times and I’m not (yet) mad enough to squander them days like this past Sunday in the Park


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