Ever since school got out in May I've been promising something to my 11 year old daughter and 3 year old grandson--a Great Adventure. After a month of daily reminders and excuses--it was too cold, too hot, too wet--I decided that last night it was Time.
Victoria skipped around while we set up the tent in our backyard. She cheerfully helped me drag blankets and an air mattress and sleeping bags and pillows to the tent. We set up a little table in one corner and couldn't wait to show it to Cohen when he arrived, fresh from a late afternoon nap. He ran in circles around the tent, bouncing from the screened door to the mattress before rewinding and doing it all again.
I took both kids to the front yard and pulled out a small box I'd been saving. It contained five packages of caps--the kind they sell for cap guns. I peeled off a little roll for each of us and sat down on the sidewalk with a rock to show them my favorite childhood pastime. They flinched at the first snap and spark of a cap as I made contact with the stone.
"This is what the grown-ups gave us to do when they were busy shooting off real fireworks," I explained, pounding away with my rock. Cohen tossed a handful of pebbles on the ground next to me before racing off into the backyard to find something more interesting.
Victoria was more diplomatic. "This was probably fun when you were a kid, huh? You didn't have much stuff to do?"
"Nope. We didn't," I answered, slamming a bigger rock into an entire wad of caps and sliding my bare foot away from the flash of fire it produced. I love the smell of burnt gunpowder.
We sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, repeatedly smacking the caps with our rocks, before Victoria ventured, "Well! I think that's about it for me. Will your feelings be hurt if I'm done now?"
"No," I said, striking the rock against the red dimpled strips of paper and pausing to squint through my bifocals to see which ones I'd missed. "You can go." I stayed outside on the sidewalk by myself until the whole box was finished. Cars drove past. I didn't care if people wondered what I was doing.
Afterwards, we lit a fire in our container on the patio. It was windy and the smoke billowed after me wherever I sat. Despite the wet wood, we managed to blacken the outer layer of four hot dogs and ate them through the haze. Cohen's drink blew off the table and spilled on the pavers. Then his chips flew away along with his entire plate.
"The Adventure is over," he announced.
"No, it's just STARTING," I promised with renewed enthusiasm.
I got out the graham crackers, Hershey bars, and marshmallows. Cohen ate four marshmallows and the chocolate out of two S'mores. The three of us got into our jammies and settled into the tent to watch Milo and Otis on Cohen's handheld DVD player. (The screen is the size of a credit card so you have to sit really close to see...and hear.) Cohen stripped down to his Spiderman underwear to be really ready for sleep. He snuggled in and watched the movie until the closing credits. It was starting to get dark outside the tent and I kept dozing off.
"I'm ready to go home now, Nema," he declared, leaning his sticky face toward mine, staring with wide eyes that didn't look the slightest bit sleepy. Ten minutes later, his daddy came by and took him to his own bed. Victoria and I hunkered down again into the covers and listened to the crickets in the grass. "Thanks, Mom, for doing this with me," she whispered. I nodded. "Sometimes little kids don't appreciate all the work adults go through for them, do they?" she added with all the wisdom and perspective of a child perched on the edge of adolesense. I smiled at her in the waning light and held her hand across the tent until we both drifted off to sleep. The night may not have been much of an adventure, but it was still great.