To get her stay in Florida underway, Clara had to dig up a pair of sunglasses, a flowery top, and some shorts. Although even Key West in under a freeze warning tonight, we did have a few days without jackets.
Today, I said, “Hey, Sam, can you watch Clara while I meet a friend for lunch?” “Sure, I’ll be right over,” she said, and so that’s what happens when you’re ten minutes away from all your immediate family. They had a great time with a nice full photo shoot. Aunt Sam even let her pretend she was driving my parent’s convertible, so now Clara grabs my purse, puts it on her shoulder, opens the door to the garage and grunts at the car as though she has somewhere she has to pretend to be.
On the way back from the park the day before, Clara ate practically a whole apple by herself in the backseat. When she’s really feeling good, I don’t even have to say “smile”; she sees the camera and gives me her toothiest grimace.
A block away from the street where I grew up is a Mellow Mushroom and a Starbucks. Five minutes down the road is the Best Buy and shopping mall with Cache and Coach and Baby Gap, Toddler Gap, Nightgown Gap, Yoga Gap, and Women Gap. But on my street there is Cathy’s Place—a trailer turned stable. There are huge homes built in 2006 when everyone could sell a plot of land for $300,000 and there are abandoned trailers where the helicopters came in to scout out the $20,000 worth of marijuana being grown in the backyard. Kids ride their bikes in the street and don’t look for cars; they play jokes on the neighbors by opening all their mailboxes. There are landscaped yards, confederate flags, Land Rovers, loud dogs, and old ladies weeding their gutters. I feel like all of America lives on my street.
And at the end of the street lives my Grandpa, and what’s left of his small farm are a few geese that Clara loves to feed.
After the feed, they take a walk across the yard to go check out what’s next.
A swing ride with mom and Grandpa.
After the ride, we go next store where deer hang out in the backyard. Sometimes what I love about my street is how it never feels fake. Nothing seems pretend. Then, a lion roars. Like a real lion, which doesn’t seem fake but also doesn’t seem real. You don’t know surreal until you’ve heard a lion roar in the middle of the city. There’s a Big Cat rescue right behind my Grandpa’s house and they provide veterinary care to, well, big cats. You can hear that this is not always a pleasurable experience for those in custody.
But the deer seem happy.
That night, we spend some time with my dad, whom Clara calls “Papa.” Clara got some of her first gymnastics lesson that night, courtesy of Papa’s plywood collection.
Then, wearing the hat mittens made by Grandma, they had to learn how to crush acorns with their shoes.
The lessons continued as Clara found the swing set.
We finished the night doing what we do best, talking politics and watching the fire burn.