This afternoon, after hanging out for a while with some friends on a little patch of grass in the shade adjacent to the Great Lawn, we decided it was time to rove. J had been hearing the strains of a violin coming from around a bend and he wanted to check it out, so I gathered our picnic blanket & snacks and strapped W into the stroller. 99 percent of the time I wear W in a sling or wrap and push J in our Maclaren, but recently I've started letting W try out the wheels when J is in a walking (or, more likely, running) mood. So off we went, towards the music.
We found the violinist, playing under a little bridge, where the acoustics were fantastic. We enjoyed our very own little concert before the man invited us over to inspect his violin. He let J pluck the strings and explained that the bow was made of hair from a horse's tail. J gasped with surprise at that revelation :)
When we strolled out from under the bridge fifteen minutes later, I realized to my excitement that W had fallen asleep in the stroller -- a first! We continued walking for a bit, but it was slow going, as J was stopping at every rock and blade of grass and was also dribbling his beloved ball on the path, which meant frequent backtracking to chase it down when it got loose.
Everything was fine, but it was getting late and I needed to run an errand in the near future, plus I was eager to keep the stroller moving so as to prolong W's nap. I suggested to J that I would be willing to carry him in the sling if he wanted a ride, so we could walk faster. Well, I didn't have to mention it twice! Excited about the now-rare treat of having me wear him, J jumped into my arms, we adjusted the sling, and off we all went at a good clip.
It had been a really long time since I had worn J like this, on a jaunt. At nearly three, he's heavier now, for sure, but there was another striking change that I noticed: the small, babbling toddler that he was when I stopped wearing him early in my pregnancy with W has grown into a very conversational, extremely verbal boy. I already knew this transformation had occurred -- I mean, I am his mother and I am with him every minute of every day -- but it took this shift of perspective from him being in the stroller all the time (where we usually have to shout back and forth to hear each other over the din of traffic) to him being back on my hip, a whisper-breath away, for me to really realize how epically he has changed.
We walked and talked and snuggled and it was wonderful and sweet and sad. As we continued downtown through the park, we soaked up all the lovely details of our surroundings. We paused for a moment to watch people rowing boats on The Lake, and then, as we took off again,
I sighed, "I love Spring"
to which J replied, "me TOO. And it's MAY."
Me: "Well, not quite. It's actually April, but May will be here soon."
J: "Where is May?"
Me: "Oh, May isn't a place. It's a month of the year, so it's a time."
J: "What is time?"
Well, folks, that one stopped me in my proverbial tracks. I got chills. What is time. What is time. How in the world do you begin to explain that? How in the world do you begin to understand it yourself, really?
So I said, "hmmm, I don't exactly know how to answer that."
I felt kind of lame for leaving it like that, but he didn't seem to be bothered. He didn't ask again, and was in fact already pointing out new observations about the scenery we were passing through. Internally, I was grasping, still trying to think of a good answer, but kind of confounded at the same time by the deepness of the question, just for myself. What is time.
But we moved on. There were horse-drawn carriages and rollerbladers and bicyclists coming past us down the hill, and a busy intersection inside the park near 72nd street for me to navigate. Soon we were on an unfamiliar path and I was unsure of which direction to go. I turned around and headed a new way, that I thought would lead us out of the park near our final destination.
Suddenly, I recognized this path. Almost two months ago, in the middle of February, we had been in this section of the park a couple of days after it snowed heavily. J and Taro had spent an hour frolicking in the drifts and galloping around a big cedar tree while I nursed W on a nearby bench. The snow was so deep that I remember I could barely see the bench except for this one, small, dry, patch where we were sitting -- presumably already cleared of the snow and ice by someone else enjoying the same seat a bit earlier in the day.
Now, this location is as green as can be, and although vastly changed, it was very familiar. Excited by my realization, I blurted,
"J, ohmigoodness! This is where we were playing in the snow recently! Do you remember?! Wow, that was so fun, and it looked SO DIFFERENT! Can you believe that snow ever melted?!"
"Oh, yeah!" said J, nodding and remembering.
"Over there," I said, "that was a snowman, and hey, look at the bench now! And you were having a snowball fight over there, and wow, look how green and lush and blossom-y it is now...wait..."
It had hit me:
"That's what time is."
"Ah." He said.
And he got it.