Don’t let that photo fool you. Right now, sitting in my house with the fire on full roar, I’m wearing a scarf so big I could use it as a queen-sized top sheet, and in the last three hours I’ve changed my socks two times because there’s some sort of physics-twisting microclimate inside my slippers that causes my toes to sweat so much they freeze. #science This time of year, our house stays in the shadow of the tall one next door (Jack London’s daughter built the top story so her father would have a writing studio when he stayed with her; have I ever told you that?), and this means we spend a good chunk of the year huddled in layers while outside it’s practically spring. Damn you, Jack London.
Thus, it is in the spirit of not being able to feel my fingers that I wanted to post a video Simon made of a trip we took to the beach last May. I’ve always been equipped to answer the questions “What’s the coldest you ever been?” (camping in Utah in October) and “What’s the hottest?” (New York City subway in August), but now if someone ever asks what day was the weather so absolutely perfect it felt like the whole world was encased in a soft-focus filter of temperate loveliness, I can show them this movie.
When we parked a million miles away from the beach, the wind was blowing so hard and cold we didn’t think we’d be staying long, so instead of hauling ten tons of “essential” equipment, we truncated to a blanket and some food, leaving even the kids’ swimsuits behind. As it turned out, the area at water’s edge felt like stepping into a warm bath, felt as if the air were attached to an extra-smart thermostat that hasn’t been invented yet, the kind that regulates the ambient temperature according to a person’s body temp and mind temp[erament]. It was one of those feel-nostalgic-about-the-moment-you’re-currently-living-in situations. Those are the gems I collect to fill my mental jewelry box. This is the jewel I’ll pull out whenever it’s 59 degrees inside the house.
NB: Please to be overlooking the fact that the song is “By the Sea” when we are, in fact, by the bay, and also that the song is about taking a quick vacation from the daily, literal grind of murdering random people for the purposes of mincing them into pie meat. If it bothers you, press mute and put on some Debussy or something.
So my dear, sensitive Wombat is filled with trepidation when forced to choose among several breakfast cereals, but throw him in a barrel and kick him down a hill and the kid’s in heaven. (It’s worth watching through the end, I promise.)
The name of the place is Adventure Playground, but I affectionately call it Tetanus Park because, well, look at it.
Now check yourself for splinters because you probably got some just now.
This is a real thing that happens there: Kids who collect ten nails, rusty or otherwise, can trade them in for tools and scrap wood, with which they can build their own un-permitted temporary dwellings with not-to-code second-story railings for other children to play on. It’s a phobic parent’s worst nightmare and/or the perfect place to go when you need to balance the universe for all those times you made your kid wear a helmet while painting.
At Adventure Playground, the equipment isn’t necessarily safe, the paint isn’t washable or nontoxic, and the most official supervision I’ve seen has been a person handing out
optional not-very-strongly-enforced liability waivers at the gate and another person trading kids nails for hammers. Regular, adult-sized, finger-smashing, head-bashing hammers. I don’t know whether to describe it as soooo Berkeley or not Berkeley at all, because while yes, you have the free-living, unschooling hippie types of Berkeley parents, you also have the helicoptering, bubble-wrapping types. I guess the best word for it is “unAmerican,” in the sense that we are a country obsessed with safety railings and worst-case-scenario signage and microfont waivers to protect interested parties from the real present danger: litigious scofflaws.
This scofflaw is not litigious.
And maybe that’s why I love it so much. At Tetanus Park, people are expected to be smart and take care of themselves and their children. If you’re okay with your five-year-old flinging himself down the zipline, have at it. If you’ll let your toddler navigate a spiral staircase built out of discarded cable spools by a group of sugar-high fifth-graders, by all means. Feel free to have fun. Feel free to get dirty and fall off of a ladder and smash your eyebrow bone against a post and pinch your fingers in a rusty hinge and ruin your shirt and get splinters in your rear end. You’re a kid; go get some bruises.
I mean, be smart and make sure your tetanus vax is up to date, but otherwise don’t come home until your hair is full of sand and you tried something that maybe scared you a little. <---Good life lesson, that.
Simon thinks I bought him a GoPro video camera for Christmas, but in actuality Santa got it for all of us. Our Flip cameras were on their last legs, and my phone is a million years old and doesn’t take good video, so the GoPro felt like a good replacement for me. For ME.
As it turns out, Simon commandeered all things GoPro (and bought all things GoPro) (and built all things GoPro) and is now the official videographer of the family, which has turned out to be awesome because now I get charming music-video-style recaps of our life in my inbox every week and I don’t have to do anything to make it happen. I highly recommend this method of memory-preservation.
Since I’m still in the middle of a giant (500+ PAGES) book project and don’t have much time to write these days, a video is what you shall have. Here’s our trip to the butterfly exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers a few weeks ago.
Also recommended: Splurge on a bright red skirt and you can feel like a sophisticated city lady who has her act together, and also the butterflies will take you for a flower and land on you and your kids will think you’re magic.
(Gah. The video quality isn’t great because I uploaded the mobile version instead of the full HD one. Oh well. Just squint your eyes, I guess?)