July 14, 2012

L'arte di non fare niente

When my friend Scrivener and his two young daughters arrived on Sunday, I figured they’d be worn out from their adventures in Big City Like No Other, where they’d spent the week. It’s true that Scrivener looked tired from the drive. But his daughters were wide awake and full of energy.

It was fun to have visitors who are roughly ten years younger than my own kids. It’s been awhile since I could make Boy-in-Black happy by saying, “Hey, want to go to the duck pond and get ice cream?” But Scrivener’s two daughters are still young enough to get excited watching ducks chase after food, and so we did all the things I love to do in the summer.

We went swimming. We went to an outdoor art park, a waterfall, a beach, and a nature center. We saw baby swans, we watched an Ultimate Frisbee game, we stopped to tour the tunnels at my CSA farm, and we walked the cedar-scented trails at Pretty Colour Lakes. We stood on the old green railroad bridge, which is so rusted that it’s not really green any more, and watched as a train rumbled past below us. We were lured into a muddy pond by a bunch of frogs, none of which we managed to catch. We paddled around a lake in canoes and found a secret waterway shaded by overhanging branches draped with spiderwebs.

The best part, though, is that we spend lots of time doing nothing. On a boardwalk above a bog, we ate a picnic lunch and watched two big turtles swim. Then we lay on the dock, looking up at the clouds and thinking of songs to sing. When I asked for a soothing song, Older Daughter sang, “Seven Nation Army,” which was apparently her idea of a lullabye. It worked on her father, who fell asleep.

Another afternoon, we walked the trail to Round Lake so I could show them my favorite spot, a rocky bank where cedar trees lean over into the green-blue water. Younger Daughter climbed down into the lake to grab handfuls of grey clay, which we rubbed on our limbs until we looked like statues. The girls and I stretched out on the rocks to let the sun dry the clay while Scrivener took a nap on a bent cedar tree. And then, despite the signs that warned us that we could get 15 days in jail as a penalty for swimming, we slipped into the cool water to wash the clay off. Luckily, we were by ourselves, and we did not get arrested.

In the evenings, we hung out at home with my kids, who are already trained in the art of doing nothing. The girls played dress-up with my belly dancing outfits, sang while With-a-Why played the piano, and convinced my daughter to make them smoothies. Younger Daughter, who is not the least bit shy, somehow convinced With-a-Why to play chess with her, and they became the undefeated champions at bughouse.

Younger Daughter decided that she wanted to cook, and I was delighted to find she has the same carefree attitude I have towards food. One night we made supper by chopping up and sautéing anything we could find that was either yellow or green. The color-coded meal looked very pretty, and — as a bonus — it even tasted good served over rice.

Shaggy Hair Boy decided he would try to see if he could wear Younger Daughter out. I think he figured there had to be a limit to her energy. So he played one song after another on his laptop, while she danced and did cartwheels. But his plan didn’t work. The adults in the room got tired just watching her energy, and she remained wide awake. “That’s fine,” said Boy-in-Black, watching her. “She can chill with me.” He’s usually awake in the middle of the night, doing his physics research. Younger Daughter was totally prepared to stay awake and help him code, if only her father hadn’t made her finally go to bed.

We were all sorry to see the Scrivener family leave. We didn’t do anything special – just the normal stuff that people do here in the summertime. But I’d forgotten how much more fun these things are when you get to do them with two small kids who get excited about anything.


Sarah Sometimes said...

Hey, I would do all those thing, happily! Sounds like fun.

Sarah Sometimes said...

things, that is

jo(e) said...

Sarah Sometimes: Clearly, you need to come visit.

Lilian said...

I think you meant 10 years younger than your kids.

Ah... that sounds heavenly!! We got to hang out with Scriv & daughters for about half an hour back in 2010. :( Well, and just a bit longer with you in 2011... I hope we can make it longer next time!!

I'm glad you got to enjoy La Dolce Far Niente together!! :)

jo(e) said...

Lilian: You and my Mom caught that mistake at just the same time -- I just got off the phone with her.

I hope to see you again if you come through here ....

kathy a. said...

what what what -- you got to spend time with the scriv clan? well, it sounds like it was glorious. and a good meetup.

liz said...

JEALOUS. 1) You met Scriv & family which I haven't yet


And it sounds like you all had a terrific time.

Rev Dr Mom said...

Love this!

Rana said...

I'm glad you've reconnected! (Assuming this is the same Scrivener I think it is.)