I had a perfect day last Friday. Really. I wasn’t planning it, it just happened. For the record, mother-related things are not at all the only things that make for a perfect day for me, but I do a lot of mother-related things, so it’s good if I can have a perfect day once in a while, doing those things.
Also, I am not being modest when I say I am not a perfect mother, far from it. I actually like to think I know enough about what young people in general and my daughter in particular, really need and I am honest enough about the state of the world and honest enough about what I can and cannot pull off, to know just how far from perfect things are. But I do some things well, some very well– and sometimes those things all line up just right. Sometimes the things I can figure out and do well happen to be just what my daughter wants and needs. And once in a great while they are exactly precisely what I want and need too. Last Friday was a day like that.
It was a half day of school. A few weeks ago, when I was away with my nephew and sister in Seattle, we played a lot of frisbee. Something I am not particularly good at. But I got better throughout the weekend and thought, “note to self– I sit around the living room way too much with my daughter. She loves to scooter but we have only one scooter and she doesn’t (so far) like bike riding (we each have a bike) and I can’t ever convince her to go for a walk with me. We oughtta try frisbee.”
When I picked her up at noon she was in a great mood. A mood that indicated she hadn’t been up against so much crap all day at school that all she wanted to do was say no to things (which not an infrequent occurrence after school and at other times). I said that we were going to the Mall and we were going to play frisbee for a while. (Yes, by the Mall I mean the National Mall, not the shopping mall.) I said we would play frisbee and then we were going into the National Gallery (which we are fortunate enough to count as practically a neighborhood museum) to check out a children’s art program there and then we would go to their cafe and eat at the cafeteria. I promised that if she would go play frisbee with me and then go into the National Gallery for those two things, we could do whatever she wanted for the rest of the afternoon. And she said, “ok”.
So we did. We drove around and found a place to park. Even the driving was gorgeous because the cherry and magnolia and crabapple trees have blossomed. We played frisbee on the Mall. It was cold, cold, but we played. I couldn’t catch as well as I had a few weekends ago, but we tossed it back and forth and ran for it and laughed a lot. Our baseball team has a regular mascot and then four “mascots”– four historical presidents of the United States; Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson. They are costumed human bodies, with huge paper mache Bread-and-Puppet Theater style heads. They were out on the Mall for some reason running footraces, and being videotaped with a group of about 25 young people hanging around them– all a very fun backdrop to a slightly unskilled frisbee game.
We got cold before we were really done with frisbee and I was hungry so we went into the East Wing of the National Gallery. The East Wing of the National Gallery is a gorgeous building, maybe my favorite in this whole city of monuments and museums, and familiar and wonderful places. We looked at the huge Calder mobile that moves slowly, slowly around. We went to the gift shop and looked at interesting art supplies and art things for young people. We bought a scratch out stencil kit. We dawdled. We ate lunch. We ate gelato in a tiny, pretty, green plastic cup after lunch. We asked about the children’s art programs. We came upon artist Bruce Nauman’s installation called–Fifteen pairs of hands— 15 bronze casts of the same two hands in different positions. There was a wonderful guard who came and pointed to different sculptures, getting us to try to make our hands like the hands in each sculpture.
Aren’t those cool? You walk in and just cannot help trying to put your own hands in the same positions.
We ran into a good friend of ours.
We sat in the huge main entrance hall of the East Wing– like sitting inside a beautiful sculpture itself– surrounded by windows and light and glorious sculpture and worked on the stencil and scratch out kit.
Then we went outside again where there is a huge open plaza with a fountain surrounded by cement barricades where we hung out as my daughter thought up challenges, for herself and for me. She set out to climb up and balance on each of the probably 70 barricades made of cement half-domes about four feet off the ground which surround the fountain. She challenged me to run the perimeter of the circle of barricades in a race against her, with me going one direction and her practically flying the other direction. She challenged me to put my hand right in one of the icy geysers shooting up from the fountain. I challenged her to walk in and out of the narrow passages between the geometric mirrored structures that rise out of the ground, and which are also actually skylights over the cafe where we looked down at people eating their gelato in the cafe we had just left. Note that the photo that is linked at the end dramatically distorts– widens– the actual passage space between those glass pyramid shapes. They are actually passages which she needed to work to keep her trim 9-year-old body from touching either side.
I was nearly as relaxed as I wish I could be and as I wish life would allow every day, or at least more often. Maybe because I was so relaxed and having such a good time–or maybe I still don’t have enough stamina. But it was still me and not she who finally said, I’m cold, we have to go play a little more frisbee, run a little more and then get into the car and leave. I had hoped I would last until she complained she was the one who wanted to go. But still I played and enjoyed myself for a long, long time, never rushing us to the next thing. It was my idea of a perfect day and I came home tired and happy. Satisfied. The glow lasted all week. Take a look for yourself at the outside of the East Wing– and make a trip there sometime if you can. Call us and we’ll come too.