Archive | 6:12 am

Sunday in the Park

1 Mar

These days, I generally avoid the park on weekends because I know it will be busy – and avoiding people has been my norm for the last year. But yesterday was so beautiful and Spring-like, I couldn’t stay away.

I usually take Richard to the park after my last class ends. As we walk, I see the regulars: the woman with the burnt orange tam, the man whose shirt stretched tight across his torso revealing he has no six pack, the elderly gentleman in the green puffy coat. We went a little earlier yesterday and, as I suspected the park was packed with interlopers.

There’s a strategy for navigating the park in COVID times. My eyes continually scan what is happening in front. My ears are attuned to anyone approaching from behind. Richard helps a lot with what is going on behind, frequently turning as someone approaches, hoping to meet a friend. Richard is really the wild card. He mostly trots along my left side, but is prone to veering off the path, into the underbrush looking for treasures. In these post storm days, he has become obsessed with sniffing downed branches, analyzing each fir needle for important details and messages. I often step off the path with him. back turned to any maskless person approaching.

Yesterday’s sunshine put a spring in Richard’s step and generosity in my heart. Even before we got to the park, he had admirers. Three young women walked parallel to us on the opposite side of the street and, despite their masks, I heard giggles and the word “cute”. I smiled behind my mask, knowing they were talking about Richard. It happened again and again as we walked the loop around the pond. Most just oohed and ahed from afar, but as we approached the junction where four paths met, we met a superfan.

We had walked past a cluster of masked people, moving onto the path that would lead us home. I knew someone was behind us because, although he was moving forward, Richard kept looking behind. I stopped to let the person pass, but the little girl stopped, too.

“He is so cute!” she enthused from behind her mask.

“Yes he is,” I replied, looking for a parent. “Would you like to say hello?”

She put out a tentative hand and started chatting, “We have a dog. She’s a lab.”

“What is your dog’s name?” I asked.

“Lily,” she replied. “He is soft and his ears are so long!”

“This is Richard. You can touch his ears ears if you like.”

“Oh, They are very soft!” she replied.

Usually, this is the extent of a conversation with a Richard stan, and I started to move away, but she followed. Still no sign of a parent. I didn’t want to keep moving without knowing her parent was near. Time seemed to stand still as I scanned the area. Then, her dad appeared, almost apologetically. He and I chatted for a moment and then they turned to go back the way we had just come. Richard and I continued on our way home.

As we walked, I thought about that small girl, so unafraid of strangers, so at ease with conversation. So unlike me at her age.

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