I don’t know if it’s because I have elderly in-laws visiting, or if it’s just because holidays are approaching, or if it’s the sign that Fall is gradually giving way to Winter, but my mind has focused on the need to slow down.
I was bringing the in-laws and my little daughter home on Saturday, after trips that had taken in a mall and a visit to the ice rink. I was horrified to see a car looming in my rear-view mirror as I headed to a junction. The driver was gesticulating to me after I had signalled to turn and was slowing down. He then swerved and overtook me and sat ahead of my car at the junction. I wondered what was his hurry. We proceeded to the next junction and were parked alongside; me waiting to turn right, him waiting to turn left. When he could, he screeched off in his desired direction. I took a deep breath.
When we got home, I decided to go for a walk before the sun started to set–it was about 3.30pm and it’s dark by about 5. I saw some neighbouring children playing with a heap of leaves and a pedal car, and called back to my house to suggest that my daughter join the kids. While I walked, I thought about the season and that it was part of a natural rhythm that gave living bodies a chance to recharge ahead of the coming year.
When I had finished my walk and was nearing home, I saw that the children were still playing. Another father, who also works from home, was still overseeing them, throwing a ball for his dog to chase. “I’m thinking of building a fire outside. Wanna beer? The kids can continue playing in the back once it gets dark,” he said. That sounded like a good plan, and I just let my visitors know that we’d be out for a little while longer. Well, a little while turned out to be quite a while.
My neighbour lit his outdoor fire pit and called his wife to come and join us; she’d been resting after another hectic work week. We talked and they discussed plans to go out for dinner and take their kids to a movie. We could hear the children playing by the fence, sorting out who was winning, losing, cheating or all of these. We left them to it.
My neighbour added wood to his fire and the flames rose to a height over his head. “Last night, my son and I had this thing really roaring. We added dead bamboo, which is like using kerosene,” he told me. His son came in and saw the fire roaring; my daughter and his sister came behind him. They decided to go off and play hide-and-seek in the bamboo grove.
My neighbour and his wife had a quick discussion: “We’re not bothering to go out. We’re going to grill some food and eat here. Do you want to join us?” I liked the idea but declined the offer, thinking that I’d already had a lot of hospitality as I drank my second beer. The children had other plans, and made the case that we had nothing else to do, so should eat with them. Cutting the details of the discussion short, I agreed to stay. The children cheered and went off for another round of hide-and-seek. When they tired of that, they decided to go and cut down some dead bamboo, then amused themselves fuelling a fire that was now raging like a furnace. It was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but our bodies were hot as we huddled by the fire.
My neighbouring father went to man the grill, and his wife went to prepare some vegetables. I supervised the children as they amassed a pile of bamboo, and started to feed it into the fire. Alternately, they listened to pop music. They also got splinters in their hands.
We went inside and sat down to dinner at about 7.30 and laughed at the way the day had taken on a shape of its own. We agreed that it would be nice to do this more often, but if we tried to plan it we would probably struggle to find the time. By 8.30, I thought we should head home and try to get bedtime sorted out for my daughter. We hugged and kissed our neighbours and then ran home.
It may be a while until we have another such afternoon, but we were glad to have given ourselves the chance to just enjoy time with friends.