Last weekend, when we were at Joe's parents' house, I had an absolutely satisfactory walk with my youngest four kids. It was Saturday morning. Joe and his mom had left early to pick up the last minute supplies for Jeremy's open house: cake, ham, buns, etc. The big kids and Joe's dad were still sleeping; I was dozing, but not fully asleep.
I heard the little ones start to stir, and gradually, one by one, sneak downstairs to see what was going on at Grandma's house in the morning. When they found out that nothing was yet going on, they came creeping back upstairs to the room they share with Joe and I when we visit there.
I had gotten up and dressed by that time, since I didn't want them unattended at Grandma's. We all trooped back downstairs and continued outside, to keep the noise level inside to a minimum.
The morning was green and misty. The green was intensified to our eyes, because it is about two weeks further into spring there than it is here. While not exactly misting, the dew was very heavy on the grass and the air had a hazy appearance, as though at any moment a true mist might start in. The morning sun was seeping through the filtering cloud cover. The world was fresh and new.
Joe's mom's spring flowers were in full bloom. As I stepped out into the yard, I immediately was treated to a view of allium, columbine, iris, coral bells, hostas in all shades of green, and the last of the year's tulips.
Joe's parents have a large grassy area between all the various buildings and in the middle are two big maples. To the north and east, they have an old grove of what's left of the elms that did not succumb to Dutch elm disease, along with ash and buckthorn; this is the area where all the treasures are hidden amidst the undergrowth. Beyond the old grove on the north, is the new grove that was put in about 30 years ago. It's two rows of spruce, then three rows of poplar, then two rows of honeysuckle.
When I started across the grass with my little ones that morning, the trees to the north and east were full of chattering birds. We followed the grass around to the south end of the old grove at the east edge of the home site. Joe's parents keep a mowed grassy area around the east side of those trees, along which the kids raced ahead. I caught up with Inge fairly soon, before we even left the main grassy area.
Inge and I continued on around the bend in the morning haze, and soon found Donna, whom John and Stella, in their excitement, had left behind. The three of us got to the north end of the grove and we found John and Stella busy exploring. This corner of the property has the kids' "playhouse." Grandpa has, throughout the years, provided the kids with all sorts of goodies to use in this area, and the size of the playhouse has grown along with the number of "home furnishings."
I didn't really let the kids explore much at the playhouse, because the big girls were not along, and they are the ones who have worked so hard throughout the years to get everything set up, just so. But also, the "carpeted hallway" leading up to the main rooms (a trail of asphalt shingles, amid the bushes), was heavy with dew. Our shoes were already quite wet, and I didn't want to have any more wet clothes than necessary when we got back to the house.
After we left the playhouse area, John and Stella found the tunnel between the two rows of mature spruce trees. John thought that would be the best direction in which to continue our walk, but I called him back. I certainly wasn't going in there, with the cobwebs, dew and potential for poison ivy or worse yet, a skunk or two. And I really wanted to walk with my kids. As the number of my kids has grown, I have taken gradually less and less time just being with them. Along with the morning dew, I was soaking in the time together, and saving it up for the days when I don't really get any good kid time.
So we walked among the poplars. These trees are tall and full, and the grass is kept mown beneath them. It's just like a walk in the park. We saw a bird's nest and a leaning tree, and talked about all kinds of potential adventures one might have in that woodland hideaway.
When we got back to the west end, we cut through the cedars that make up the western grove. This is an old, old little woods that Joe's dad has been cleaning up during his retirement years. It's nice now, with a thickly needled floor and little shade plants growing along the way. Stella found an old brown bottle that she thought ought to go into the playhouse.
All too soon, we got back to the driveway and civilization. Stella and John once more ran ahead, past the house and toward some of the equipment Joe's dad has parked between the buildings. By the time Donna, and Inge, with their shorter legs, and I had come up to the equipment, Stella and John were around the south side of the property. I saw only their heads above the grasses and undergrowth that separated us. I asked them if there was a path, or if they were among the weeds. They assured me they were in the path.
What Stella and John did not mention was that the path was only a little bit grass covered, but mostly soft, squishy mud. By the time Donna and Inge and I were along it, and starting to sink, Stella and John's shoes were thick with the goop. I debated whether to continue on or go back, but either way was about equal, so on we went. When we finally cut through back to the mowed area around the garden, we all had about an inch of muck clinging around the edges of our shoes.
"We'll have to walk through the grove again to wash off our shoes, I guess, " I suggested.
So around we went again. Stella dropped off her brown bottle at the playhouse and we all walked sideways on our shoes to get the sides good and clean in the thick, wet grass. By the time we got back, we were well exercised and the little ones were even a little tired. I had to carry Inge a bit on the second loop.
It was a beautiful walk, with pretty flowers and trees along the way, and the chorus of the morning birds filling the air. But most of all, it was filled with precious moments with my little ones.