Today was a stormy day in more ways than one. There were the physical storms that came and went – bands of sun broken by rain squalls and darkened sky. It echoed the way I felt inside, internal storms battering at my peace of mind. It was one of those days when I didn’t like anything the way it was, and just wasn’t in the mood for acceptance. So when there was a break in the wet horizon, I packed up Zane (who was getting restless probably in reaction to me) and off we went to Seward Park. I put Zane in his city stroller, bundled up in a fleece one-piece suit topped by a hooded parka. Armed with crackers, cheese, one corned-beef sandwich, a sippy cup and a bottle of water we set off in search of release. The wind rose up a notch as we started into the trail around the edge of the island. I could feel it tugging at my hair, at my being – asking me to wake up.
Zane took it all in, the wind, the yellow leaves falling around us like snow, the large orange maple leaves on the ground, the waves in the lake, the egrets looking for food. He babbled and hummed, sitting up straight in his seat – limbs askew as if he was going to catch something with both his hands and feet. “Onward driver!” his whole body said. After a while he bent over and watched the wheels of the stroller crush the wet leaves. I stopped and picked up a huge maple leaf the size of his head and handed it to him as a gift. His eyes and face erupted into a huge grin and he grabbed it – holding it aloft like a blazing orange torch. Now he was a colonel leading his army to war, holding his sword high. Or perhaps the head of a peace delegation, waving a bright flag.
We reached the back side of the island and the wind abated a bit. I gave Zane some crackers and strips of string cheese which he happily ate while I had my sandwich. A wide stripe of sun painted the distant city skyline gold, an stark contrast against the gray sky. I felt encouraged. We drank out of our respective bottles. Motherhood in this moment was worth all the letting go. The lower income, the lack of time, the setting aside of dreams and goals, the tired evenings and endless high chair cleaning. Looking at Zane with his maple leaf in hand I felt nothing but gratitude for windy days in the park, and for those little arms that are so good at wrapping a hug around mama’s neck. It felt good to be out of my head, out of my dissatisfaction – and back in the moment with my son.
My reverie was interrupted by the wind picking up again. Off we went, with still half of the island to go. As we neared the final stretch the wind decided to give us a run for our money. We were walking headlong into strong gusts which lifted Zane’s hood so that it hovered about an inch above his head, not quite blowing completely off. He leaned forward, eyes squinting. He looked back at me and laughed. Snot was pouring out of his nose, but if he didn’t care – I didn’t care. I laughed back and pushed the stroller harder. I was getting hot from the effort of pushing directly into the wind, so I stripped off my coat and tied it around my waist. Zane still clung to the leaf as it danced in the wind. I could hear his ecstatic screams over the noise of the storm that was now rapidly approaching. It was like he was on the roller coaster ride of his life. The more he squealed, the more I laughed – until we both resembled madmen, laughing maniacally at God knows what.
Finally it came. The rain. We still had a few parking lots to navigate – at least another five minutes of walking. I flipped up the canopy on the stroller and threw on my raincoat. The wind made it impossible for either of our hoods to stay on so were good and wet by the time we got to the car. But we were both happy, our moods kissed by the storm. And Zane fell asleep on the drive home, looking like an angel with ruddy cheeks and wet hair, the maple leaf still intact in one tightly clenched fist.