Today, we decided to walk to the library after lunch. It was raining, so my son needed a little persuasion to go, since his plan was to ride his bike to the library, and he does not like to ride in the rain. When I pointed out that I would be walking, so he could walk with me, rather than leaving me in the dust on his bike (as he usually does) AND that I would let him carry the new umbrella, he readily agreed that it was a good afternoon for a walk after all.
Off we went, at our usual slow and meandering pace. We inspected the three plumbing trucks at the neighbors’ house, and Miles, who had played with their son over the weekend, gave me the update on all their remodeling news. Around the corner, we watched a team of city workers grind out the stump of a tree that they had removed. Further down the street, a perfect pine cone flung itself from its tree and bounced to our feet. It was duly appreciated for its undamaged form and carefully placed in the bag with the library books. We compared what was blooming with the early spring blooms we inspected a few weeks ago, and stopped to smell most of the different types of flowers. Miles’ verdict: viburnum smell yummy, euphorbia should be called “the smelly plant,” and tulips tickle if they go up your nose when you are sniffing. Closer to the library, we inspected the fairy village which had received a fresh pot of gentian flowers next to it, paused to spin the handles on the music boxes at the music box fence, wondered about the collapsed fairy house down the block and mused on Miles’ strong landlord-tenant relationship with the fairies who moved into the village he built in our yard, read a long Langston Hughes poem at the poetry post, and lured and petted five cats that all seem to make the adjacent house their headquarters.
At the library, we talked to the friendly librarian about collecting some very important car books that we looked up before we came, checked out the prized DVD of Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons that Miles must reserve at least 4 times as year, and ran into his school friend’s mom, who also happens to be the school nurse.
On the way home, laden with heavy books that I was required to sherpa up the hill while someone attacked the rain and air relentlessly with my brand new umbrella, my bad knee started to play up and my back started to cramp. Miles solicitously asked which way we should go home – the shorter way or the less steep way. Today, I opted for the shorter, more direct route, even though it goes up a steeper hill on a busy and noisy street. It also passes MeowHaus, the luxurious cat boarding facility, so we stopped and peered at the vacationing cats through the large windows. Toward the top of the hill, we pass the fire station, which always requires us to peer through the clear garage door to see if the engine is visible. Today, the fire fighters were in their side area outside, where one was inexplicably climbing a completely vertical ladder over and over in the rain. Miles, of course, waved to the fire fighters. (Okay, so did I. They’re fire fighters. You have to wave!) The one who was spotting the ladder climbing cadet came over and asked us if we would like to see the fire truck. Surprised, we agreed, and by agreed, I mean that I limped after my sprinting 8 year old, who was already halfway to the engine. We met the ladder climber (a cadet-in-training who wanted some additional ladder practice) and got the full detailed tour of the fire engine. No compartments went un-inspected, no lights were un-tested, no seats were un-sat-upon, no tools were un-examined. I have, of course, seen fire engines up close before – no mom of a small American boy hasn’t – but I had never had such a thorough tour. Having exhausted the engine, and even tested out the smaller hoses, and having explored the many purposes of cat litter in firefighting, we moved inside to tour the equipment bay (i.e. garage) and the rest of the station. We saw photos of the historic station when it was first built in 1913, and learned that it was the last station in Portland that had horses to pull the fire wagon. The floors are the same as they once were, though now there is a front desk and fire memorabilia in what was once a stable. We also saw the actual fire pole (did you know fire fighters still really slide down the fire pole) and discovered that it is the highest one in the entire city. Miles even got to go upstairs to see the fire fighters’ living and sleeping quarters and meet another slightly surprised fire fighter. By the time we left, Miles was beaming from ear to ear and chatting happily to “our” fire fighter about the merits of his kid sized Boggs boots versus the official fire fighter boots. After thanking the fire fighter for his kind and unexpected tour, we walked the last couple of blocks home.
An unplanned excursion with no set time limits can yield unexpected surprises, and my kiddo went to bed full of excited stories about the day. What more can one ask of spring break?