daily preciousness

Saturday, February 17, 2001

the perfect time of day



It's nearly the perfect time of day. And I'm perfectly silent, except for my heart, which is drumming like a timpani.

I'm under the overturned plastic wading pool in the back yard. Corki was sniffing around the cedar chips nearby. His big pink doghouse was too obvious a hiding place -- but under the pool -- Wick would never find me here.

Pulling the edge of the pool closer to the ground, I notice the sidewalk chalk still on my hands. The gritty red powder colors my fingertips. I fan out my hand for a second, admiring my glamorous nails, also pink from the chalk.

I check my Snoopy watch. Woodstock's only made 3 revolutions since Wick ended his countdown. We're at the three-minute mark. Hide and seek is a game of strategy and hiding ability. I have plenty of both.

There's a rustling of leaves just around the corner -- I hear him getting closer.

He's making a lot of noise while he's searching for me. Definitely, a good baby-sitter -- he plays hide 'n' seek beautifully, making sure Christian and I are having a good time.

Without a doubt, the best part of the game is being found. He would grab me under my arms and lift me up into the air, until I was looking him eye-to-eye. Perfect green eyes would smile at me and I'd grab his dirty blond hair, threatening to pull it out. I would breathe in the scent of him. It made me dizzy; at age 8, even Old Spice is exotic.

But I have a few more minutes of anticipatory delight -- he hadn't located me yet.

Where is Christian? He wasn't as good at hiding as I was. But he is three years younger and not as wise in the ways of the world as his big brother.... Where is he? I can't see very well from under the pool. All I can see is a sliver of the setting sun, sparkling through red and yellow maple leaves. The bough above creaks a little in the breeze.

The scent of cedar chips and musty dog near the ground nearly triggers a sneeze. I wipe my nose for a second before I notice the powdery sensation of chalk dust on my face.

Where is he? Is he in the bosom of the maple tree? Is he in the moldy orange treehouse? Is he crouched down behind the stick pile, watching the lizards slither and scramble around? I lift up the pool carefully, just a little, peering towards the treehouse. I still can't see him.

Corki must have heard me. Or smelled me. Or he just wants to bother me. He runs over, ears perked up and alert. He came over and licked my face. "Sshh!" I whisper at him. But the sound is lost in the rustling of dried leaves underfoot. It was Wick. He is right up on me!

"Where is that boy?" he yells playfully, as if he couldn't hear me whispering to the dog. I'm so excited that my stomach fills with helium, like a party balloon. In a few seconds, he's going to rescue me from my lonely, quiet hiding place.

He doesn't disappoint. "Don't look under here; it's just Corki," I growl in my best small dog impersonation. My voice is shrill and sounds louder under the dome of blue plastic.

Ever so slowly, he lifts up the pool. The light around me shifts from aquamarine blue to the gold of sunset. It's the perfect time of day: the golden hour. I can feel the breeze through the holes in my gym shorts.

I see Wick's Kangaroos tennis shoes first, then his threadbare blue jeans. The hole at his knee reveals white skin and a few short strands of curly hair. Next, I see his Dukes of Hazard belt buckle.

He laughs and reaches to pick me up. But stops short. He kneels down and ruffles his brow.

"What's this?" He peers at me and spreads the slender, graceful fingers of his right hand over my left ear. He smiles and the lines around his eyes wrinkle beautifully.

I'm laughing. I hold his head the same way he is holding mine. With his thumb, he wipes the chalk from my nose. He's so gentle that his thumb feels like a butterfly's wing brushing me. I catch my breath from laughing and I pull him toward me. Our foreheads touch and rub against each other in an abbreviated eskimo kiss.

Inside me, I feel a rush of warmth. If feelings can be assigned specific colors, I know which one I am.... I feel more golden than the sunlight streaming down upon us.

Catching a movement out of the canopy of fall leaves above, I pull away from Wick. I see Christian in the tree above us. He's looking down and smiling. His Superman T-shirt barely visible, he's back lit by the setting sun.

Wick sees where I'm looking.

"There's the other one!" he shouts up at Christian. Game over. "Get down from up there, Monkeyboy!"

He shimmies down the rope to the tire swing.

I give Corki a demonstrative kiss and grab a quick drink from the hose, washing the chalk from my face. The water's warm and metallic. I put a little water into Corki's dish. The water beads up in the dust. The droplets, first splattered apart, roll together, forming little puddles.

The sun has set and it's getting colder. We go inside for frozen dinners and cokes, the traditional baby-sitter supper, leaving Corki as he sniffs the cement blocks under the pool.

I close the gate behind me as quickly as I can, careful to keep Corki fenced in. The gate clangs shut and the "beware of dog" sign clothespinned to the fence glimmers a little in a beam of light. It was the perfect time of day.

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