“Mooooore!” His small husky voice rises at the end, his eyes wild and wide as his smile as his body rocks back and forth, back and forth in the swing.
“Slide!” He climbs up the stairs, hand-hand, foot-foot, until he reaches the top. He turns and flashes me an enormous toothy grin: he is taller than Mama! “Do you want to go down?” I ask. He nods and turns serious again, maneuvering himself to the top, and then the bottom, of the slide.
“Up!” He races across the playground, his feet kicking up wood chips. He has seen an older girl, not more than six or seven, climb on top of the cement bench near the edge of the fence. Hoisting himself up, he expresses his glee for climbing with a shuffling dance. Then he turns to see what she will do next. She is older, wiser, more than three times his age — watching her teaches him where to aspire.
Totally ignoring him, reveling in the early-March-turned-June afternoon, she walks a little away from us then jumps down and takes off toward the swings. His eyes follow her every move. “Climb down safely,” I intone. But it’s too late.
CRASH! His body splays on the ground, his right leg at an angle. My heart stutters but I try not to wear my worry on my face. His hands have broken his fall; he pushes himself to standing and his hands — those small, pudgy hands, which less than a year ago held mine as he tried to take his first steps — brush dirt and wood chips off his jacket, his pants. He looks up at me: look what I did, Mama! “That’s right, bud,” I say, squatting down beside him to check his face. “When we fall, we get back–”
“Up!” he crows, and he takes off across the playground back toward the swings.