We were outside tonight, bumping up against the hour of H’s bedtime routine. The coming together again after a short separation, the warmth of the sun on our skin, and the softness of the early evening light tugged at us to stay, so we did, stretching our good fortune by unraveling the garden hose and playing with the cool spray of water showering from its nozzle. H held the hose as I turned the spigot, and he caught me with the first spray.
“Mama get wet,” he laughed, as I ran to get out of water’s way.
“Yes, mama got wet,” I said, laughing, too. The sticky, sweaty heat of the day had given way to a gentler warmth, but still the water felt refreshing and nice on my bare arms.
H turned his attention to the hose, shaking it up and down and turning his body this way and that to direct the flow of water. His mouth and eyes were open wide with delight.
“Mama get wet some more,” H implored.
“Yes!” I agreed.
I counted one, two, three, and ran through the misty spray just as if I were 12 again and on the front lawn of our house in Fisk, running through the sprinkler on a hot, humid Wisconsin summer day.
I ran through our makeshift sprinkler three, maybe four more times, and something about our laughter mingled with the water droplets and the warm Seattle summer air and being out later than we usually are pulled me into a deep nostalgia for my own childhood. I was transported behind the shed, one of the juiciest, most daring places to hide during games of Ghost in the Graveyard that lasted well past sundown; to the metallic, fresh smell of summer rain hitting the gravel on our driveway; to the seat of my blue Schwinn bike, pedaling with Jenny S. around huge country blocks that penned in fields of corn and alfalfa; to the railroad bridge we sat on, drawing on its concrete supports with chalky rocks and dropping stones into the water below; to a time when I was young and carefree and unmarked by the inevitable pain and suffering that visits us in life.
I stood back out of the water’s reach and studied H playing with the hose. A deep longing to memorize the moment came over me. It is a familiar desire I have, the desire to somehow capture in a jar the quality, presence, and sights and sounds of an experience so that I might have some tangible reminder of it forever.
My jar, if I had it, would tell you this: There was the comfortable warmth of a mid summer evening, and there were rhododendrons, an oak tree, and dirt and asphalt. There was a woman that, when she thought of it, felt surprised by somehow having reached middle age. There was a young boy with a hose. He was 33 inches tall, wearing a red hat snapped up on the sides, its red string pulled taut under his chin. His collared, short-sleeve grey knit shirt had a blue line drawing of a fire engine. The blue, yellow, and green plaid shorts he was wearing did not quite match his shirt, but he pulled it off with aplomb anyhow. Light grey socks cuffed over once peaked out of lime green and midnight blue shoes strapped on his feet by velcro. They were size 6 1/2. He was filled with playfulness and joy, taking delight in the simplest thing, a garden hose, as if it were the only thing to do. He was in the moment. It may very well have been the only way he knew to move in the world at that time. He was perfect.
Through the spray of water between him and me I saw a rainbow that danced as H moved the hose, growing larger and smaller depending on the water’s relationship to the sun and the tree branches behind us.
My jar, if I had it, would contain a beautiful summer moment, perfect and complete just as it was, the kind you want to linger over and then savor long after it has passed. My jar, if I had it, would be one I would take down from the shelf at the end of every day.