Sunday Afternoon Picnic

There are people everywhere. Each way I look, each way I tilt my head, there is action, movement; life and all its accompanying sounds.

Legs crossed, my long skirt tucked around my knees in vague hopes of modesty, I sit in the grass, surrounded by all this moving and living and sound-making, and I watch. The sun seeps into my shoulders, flutters across my chest, heats the toes I haphazardly painted red in the hours before Eli’s wedding last weekend. Leaning back on my arms, I can feel the knots and twists of my summer-sticky hair falling around my shoulders, frizzy stands inching their way defiantly under my sunglasses, into my eyes once more. I lift my glasses, run my fingers through the humidity-curled bangs, and turn for a moment to watch the movement to my left.

Across the narrow, straight concrete that cuts this park in two, a group of parents, couples, sit under the shade of a short, thick tree. Long, arching branches bring brilliant green leaves almost to their level, almost down to where they sit in fabric camping chairs. Some with hands crossed in their laps, others leaning forward in their seats, their whole bodies nearly falling into their conversations. There’s a little girl in the shade of the tree, too, thin blonde hair pinned back on the side, her belly still baby-round. A curios, friendly toddler, I’ve watched her gaze up at older children, wrap her dimpled arms around other little ones in a neck-squeezing hug. Now, her head tilts back, arms reach up to her father, miniature fingers stretching to be held, if only for a moment, before she toddles off again, the picture of tiny independence.

Not two yards down the path, the trees open, briefly, and the warm grass is near-full with the backpacks, picnic blankets, and discarded lunch bags of those who have eaten there. Meal consumed, they sit in the sun, as I am across the sidewalk, and talk, their body language and the flow of their words creating pockets of conversation throughout their group. Here three talk, here four, here two converse over the heads of the others; now they all glance around, chuckle at a communal joke, nod in group agreement.

Beyond them still, the children play. Settled in the middle of the field, the playground appears mottled in some places, as shade from the trees encircling the play area splashes over the slides, the sand, the swings. The children are many. Some faces I recognize, some I don’t. They’ve mixed effortlessly in the easy, clean way of children who simply want to play. A game of tag is better with seven than four, going down the slide is faster with three, swinging goes higher when there’s someone to push, so they make alliances. I watch as they play, slipping in and out of my line of vision. There are slanting parallel bars along the play area, running from the slide platform to the ground. I perceive no organized games, but there’s a congregation of young ones around the bars, waiting their turn. They slide down, legs hooked on each bar, bodies quickly slipping into the space between, until they arrive on the woodchipped ground, only to jump up, scramble up the ladder, do it again. They slide alone, waiting their turn at the top, and they slide together, four children lined one after the other, slipping slowly down the bars. There are no rules to their sliding, I think, but maybe there are, because children are smart like that, and creative, too.

In the grass before me, in the sun-warmed span between my seat in the dirt and the tree-lined playground, they are playing soccer. Strappy sandals tossed in the grass to represent goals, the teams swirl and meander together. A pick-up game, players straggle off the field, tentatively wander on, throughout the game, and watching distractedly from my self-created sideline, I’m unsure who is kicking for which side. But the flow of the game moves back and forth across the field, the ball rolling in and out of extended legs, occasionally flying high in the air, followed with cries of “Head it!” only to come bouncing back down again. Every now and again, the ball rolls to where I sit, in the middle of all this movement. And I pick it up, and throw it back into the fray.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Grandma S.
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 07:48:56

    How nice to read about children playing outside and not sitting around with electronic gadgets.


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