Vail Novice Mother: Defrosting the park
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –We’ve had a few false starts to spring in Colorado’s Vail Valley – balmy days of sunshine and dry earth followed by the kind of snowstorm that shuts down I-70 in both directions. But there was a truly liberated feel to the longer hours of this past weekend. People were coming back to the park.
We live across the street from a modest little playground that was set up with new features last October. It had a brief renaissance before the weather turned too cold and the daylight hours too short for making it outside after work. The Kid and I would layer up and hit the slide, but if there exists a foolproof method for keeping mittens on 15-month old fingers, I haven’t discovered it yet. Not even creatively applied duct tape could keep the Kid’s hands from turning a raw and alarming shade of purple-red in the chill air.
So we settled in for a long winter.
These mountains, of course, are an absolute Mecca for those who worship the white stuff. It’s what brought me out here in the first place, like so many people before me. But when I first made that cross-country road trip to points known and venerated, it never occurred to me that in 10 years I’d find myself house bound with a restless toddler. The bitter damp winters of northern New England seem short in comparison.
The Kid is ready to get out. For a day or two she reveled in the thrill of jumping in puddles of snowmelt. Now we’ve suddenly started to layer up with SPF 50, wraparound shades, and floppy sun hats instead of fleece and long underwear. We’ve dusted off the tricycle and unpacked some old fragments of sidewalk chalk. Such are the perks of a hasty spring.
By far the greatest perk of all, though, is the revival of the neighborhood park. People start to surface at about 4:30 in the afternoon and don’t leave until some form of sustenance is absolutely necessary. Summer may be the season of the barbecue, but this here is the season of the playground, and it is pure, unadulterated joy. All kinds of personnel emerge from the workplace to toss a Frisbee or pick up a game of soccer across the street. Dog owners run their pets in a nearby field. And parents let their kids run free range on the playground.
We recognize each other from a lifetime ago. Those of us with younger kids marvel at how much they’ve changed. Then we sit back and enjoy some lazy dialogue that feels vaguely refreshing for having been composed of complex sentences. I notice the Kid climbing a structure that wouldn’t even have existed for her this time last year. She negotiates the challenge as though she’d been doing so every day for the last five months. There are plenty of kids her age doing the same, and she gets pulled into their orbit. She has the words and the recall, now, to greet them by name.
Eventually we’ll have to go inside and figure out dinner, and the Kid will have to part with her buddies. But that’s OK. We’ll all be back out here, same time tomorrow. Or, at least, after the next storm melts away.
Genevieve Coffey is The Wife.