On a balmy fall “Indian Summer” evening just after sunset, Finn was having a hard time with the idea of bedtime. Refusing to come inside, he found one thing after another that he had to do “one last time.”
“I just need to swing from the rope one more time,” he said.
I lifted him to the crook of the maple tree since it’s too wide for him to climb up on his own. A rope tied to one of the limbs has become a recent favorite for him. It was getting dark fast.
“OK, that’s the last time,” I said after he had swung back and forth a few times. “Time to get down and go inside.”
“Noooo! NOT the last time!” he wailed.
Suddenly there were other high pitched voices in the dark from across the way.
“Finn! What’s wrong?!” It was Teo and Sebastian, ages 6 and 5. They came running from next door like the charging cavalry.
“I want to swing from the rope some more!” Finn yelled to them, pleading his case.
“I want a turn! I want a turn,” they repeated one after the other.
I relented. “OK,” I said.
They all had multiple turns and then spontaneously broke into a game of tag, chasing each other into the dark. I was reminded of fall evenings when I did the same thing as a kid, very often after a Sunday evening church service. My mother was a choir director so we were always there. After the service it seemed like we ran for hours while all the adults stood and talked. We were dripping with sweat by the time we piled in the car to go home.
As I watched them run figure-eights on the lawn, I thought of how this may be one of the last nights they have to run barefoot before the weather turns cold. These are the times that create lasting memories, which I’m becoming more aware of since Finn is at the age where he may actually remember them now.
I don’t know if he will remember this. But I will because…well, I’m writing it down. Watching him and his friends is sometimes like viewing a collection of idealized movie clips. Is there any sound more comforting than kids laughing and chasing each other?
It’s so hard to interrupt these moments for practical necessities, like bedtime. Especially when I know that in a dozen years we’ll be very lucky if playing outdoors holds the same importance for him.
Adults don’t play as naturally as kids. We have to schedule it. In fact I feel pretty guilty when I’m not doing something “productive.” But as we all know, when we do play, we connect with our friends and community. We relax, eventually. And occasionally we might even create something we’ll remember. Even without writing it down.
David Dewitt is an artist, blogger, and painter who lives with his family in the Rondout Valley. For more, visit daviddewitt.com.