I’m filling up the sink with hot water to do some dishes when Quinn says, “Let’s go swing, Dad! C’mon! Let’s go swiiiiing!” and I say, “Quinnie, I really need to do these dishes,” and the final word hasn’t even left my mouth before I realize the utter absurdity of this statement. Dishes? Dishes?! I have to do the dishes instead of swinging with you?
Gimme a break.
“Well…” I say sheepishly. “Maybe for just a bit.”
Outside in the back yard, Quinn hops onto the swing and Rory jumps onto the wooden horse and I push each of them in turn until they’re both pelting back and forth at heights and speeds that are beyond reasonably safe. Quinn shouts, “Higher! Faster!” and so I do, her head now going totally level with the top of the swing.
I give her one final shove and she pushes away from me, reaches the precipice and the swing seems to pop and comes down with a jerk that throws her a little off balance. It reaches its back most position, rises, rises, peaks and drops and she jolts again. As she passes the lowest point, her feet drag on the ground and she begins to say something that sounds part “Help,” and part scream. About three quarters of the way up, she lets go of the chains and rockets off the swing and into the air while I stand helpless. It’s all happening so fast.
She maneuvers through the air like a clown shot from a canon and comes down hard, landing on her butt. She shouts, “MY BUUUTTTT!!!” and I quickly pick her up and brush her off and, trying to downplay the event, I say, “Are you okay? Sometimes that happens. No big deal. Can you walk?” She says, “Yeah…” and then crawls onto the horse with Rory.
I give them a round of pushes before Rory says, “SLIDE! SLIDE! LET’S GO DOWN THE SLIDE! C’MON, GUYS!” And this is how he is at parks with strangers. “C’mon, guys! Follow me! Let’s go down the slide! C’mon!”
ABOVE: THE KIDS PLAYING WITH ONE OF THEIR FRIENDS ON THE HORSE… THE HEADLESS HORSE… THE HEADLESS HORSE WITH NO FEET…
So I run up the slide, into the tree house and Quinn and Rory both follow suit. Inside, Quinn spreads her hands wide open and says, “Welcome to my Little House,” and I look around and say, “I just love what you’ve done with the place,” and she says, “You want some food?” and I say, “Sure. What have you got?” She says, “Watermelon,” and sticks her hand into an imaginary box, pulls some out and hands it to me. “It’s delicious! What else have you got?” and Rory says, “MALT-O-MEAL!” and I say, “You have Malt-O-Meal up here?” and he says, “Yeah!”
So I ask for a bowl… and how about some sugar? And some butter? And some milk? May I have a spoon to stir it? Thank you very much. And then I blow on it and taste it and it is just like my imaginary mother used to make. I ask Rory if he wants a bite and he says, “Yes, please,” and so I tell him it’s hot and to blow on it first. He does and eats off the invisible spoon and says, “Mmmmm…”
I ask Quinn if she wants a bite and she says, “Yes, please,” blows on the spoon and then bites my thumb. “OW! YOU BIT ME!” and she smiles.
ABOVE: ONCE YOU SEE THE LURKING CREEPER, YOU’LL NEVER NOT SEE HIM.
Rory asks if I want to go down the slide and I tell him we should put the Malt-O-Meal in the fridge and clean up first (the irony being that I’m more concerned about cleaning up imaginary food before play instead of actual, real life dirty dishes). He says, “Okay,” and takes it from me and, while he’s storing it, says, “It’s gonna be cold.” When he turns around, he seems to have forgotten about the slide and says, “I’m still hungry. You want a jelly sandwich?” and I say, “Sure, if you’ve got jelly,” and he says, “Yeah! I do!”
He hands me bread and he hands me jelly, which I have him open, and then he hands me a knife and I slather the bread good and then cut it into three individual pieces so we can share. I hand one to Rory and he goes to eat it but I say, “Wait!” and he freezes. I hand one to Quinn and she cups it in two hands, staring at it. Finally, I pick up my own slice, so thin it’s nearly invisible, and say, “Let’s clink them.” This exercise essentially amounts to “Cheers,” or the clinking of glasses. I taught them the cup thing a few weeks ago and now they like to clink everything from celery to chicken. We’ve had to instill a rule at the dinner table that there’s only one clink per meal because two clinks is considered bad luck.
I say, “Ready, set–” and we all three say, “CLINK!” and knock our sandwiches together and eat.
“That was fantastic,” I say, “But not very filling. Do you guys want to go inside and make some mac and cheese?” and they both scream, “YEEEAAHHH!” and we all disappear down the slide, Rory first and then Quinn sitting on my lap.
Man cannot live on imaginary bread alone.
I go inside and, wouldn’t you know it, the dishes I need are dirty.