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Sunday in the Park

Sometimes you buy something not so much for its actual function but for the implied satisfaction that will come from just owning the item. Women do this on a far more regular basis than men, I suspect. Take the pair of vibrant shoes with the three-inch spiky heels. Perhaps you don’t have an immediate occasion to wear them but, should the occasion arise, you’ll be able to just dust them off and strut around. I have done the same with cookbooks. Purchased them, because I loved the idea of making a different soup each Sunday from monastery recipes, and perhaps one day, I will have a month of Sundays with nothing else planned and I will shop and chop and boil away. It feels good just to look at that book sitting on the counter. It doesn’t frustrate me about what I haven’t made time to do; instead, it seems to patiently wait (as a book written by monks would) until I am ready for it.

So years ago, just after my first grandchild was born and I purchased the Rolls Royce of little red wagons, I was content with simply the idea of pulling the grandchildren (I anticipated my children would at least reproduce once) around my yard, maybe beyond. I had seen the elegant model surrounded by plastic cars and pull toys. It was big, really big, with fat, all terrain tires and giant wooden slats that could slip in and out to create the tall sides. The metal body was shiny, shiny red. It was, as impulse buys go, a rather strange and extravagant purchase. I don’t ever remember having a wagon of my own or for my own children. I don’t know why really. Except when we lived at Lake Tahoe, it was very hilly other than on our street by the lake and perhaps just not conducive to wagon riding. My kids had strollers and then trikes. We just seemed to pass by the whole wagon stage.

The wagon came unassembled, so when I got home I asked my teenager neighbor if I could pay him to assemble it. This guy, a snowboarder dude, who will graduate high school in a few months, with hair that curtains his eyes, looked over the project and finally brought in the expert, his dad, to help with the assembly. When they finished a few hours later, the teenager pulled the wagon around my front yard a bit. "This is really cool," he said with obvious wagon envy. I told him he could borrow it any time and he laughed, flipped his hair and strolled across the street.

I then pulled it, empty, around my yard as a test drive, since my granddaughter wasn’t even old enough to sit up yet by herself. Over the course of the summer, I started filling the wagon with my birdseed and dragging it around to fill the feeders. And though I placed a lovely blanket down on the bed of the wagon the next summer, Izzie wasn’t terribly interested in riding in the wagon. She wanted to run alongside it. It wasn’t until after her cousin was born and he was around two that she thought it would be fine to ride together. Which proved to be a bit of a workout, pulling the wagon over bumpy terrain. But worth the aerobic exercise. It was short-lived. The kids wanted to fill the bird feeders, so we loaded the wagon up with a couple 20-pound bags of seed, and pulled it to each of the 17 feeders in the yard. The magpies were immediately appreciative and though they are my least favorite birds, the children find them terribly amusing.

By the time Izzie’s brother was born, the older kids had lost any interest in the wagon as a vehicle. She and Tyler now have bikes of their own. And the little guy, Axel, at two and half, is just now discovering the joys of feeding the birds. So, on Sunday, when Izzie and her dad slipped up to the resort to get in a few runs, Axel and his mom stayed behind with Oma. It was a bright, blue sky, warm, honestly warm, March day. And though Daylight Saving had started a week early, we were still a few days away from the official start of spring, an occasion that is met in the mountains most often with yards still covered in feet of snow, just starting to melt.

This Sunday was glorious. Since the snow in my yard had all but melted, we loaded up the wagon with birdseed and started on our appointed rounds. We were not quite finished, when Axel looked up at me and said, "Me want to ride." So I quickly tossed the birdseed out, grabbed a big fat towel as a cushion and plopped him in the wagon. I told his mother I’d be just a minute inside. Then I cut up an apple and poured some juice in a sippy cup and returned. And the three of us started down the street.

The glorious weather turned out toddlers and seniors alike. We chatted and strolled and looked for the Canadian geese that have returned to the pond on the golf course. We kept walking, Axel snacked on the apple, sipped his juice and giggled at being The King of the Wagon, without any other siblings or cousins around. His lovely mother and I talked in a way we rarely do, without interruption and without an agenda. My son was very lucky in finding her and then choosing her. She is an extremely bright, accomplished woman of uncommon kindness. Our conversation, like our stroll, was without any real direction. We had been out for about an hour when Axel decided he might want to walk for a bit. Together we looked carefully at the crocus and the baby iris coming up the yards along the way. The tulips pushing through, the daffodils, too. When we rounded the corner toward my house he wanted back in the wagon. I was only too happy to oblige. I told him to hang on for the dip in the road and then I went extra fast over the slight indentation. He giggled in that unrehearsed, straight-from-the-gut infectious way, that toddlers do. All three of us were giggling as we took the driveway.

By now the yard was filled with birds dining en masse. And Axel squealed and took off to catch a magpie.

When my son’s family loaded up and headed back to their home in the afternoon, I returned to my chore of filling the remaining feeders. As I pulled the towel out to put the birdseed in, something came flying out from the folds. It was a slice of apple, left over from the expedition of Sir Axel. I took it gingerly over to the feeder the magpies seem to like best. A kind of offering. And in a matter of seconds a great squawking took place and the apple slice disappeared. I continued, pulling the wagon filled with seed, but no longer a seed of mine, and I was content in a way that only a grown woman with a wagon of her own can be. There are moments you hope your mind will frame and keep. I’m hoping I get to gaze back on this simple, Sunday in the Park


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