Novak (novak) wrote,

Personal: The Weekend with the Nieces

Back from some days at my sister's, and, as usual, crashed pretty hard. The nieces continue to wear me out, but it's all good fun when they do. I took in my annual Cubs game with Jim and Leslie, the girls and Dad: this year being the tenth anniversary since we first did this with this group, minus the girls. That was a great day, September 12th, a game against the Brewers, and the best game I've ever seen: a 10-3 deficit in the sixth with the Cubs coming back to win 15-12, and Sosa tying Ruth's mark in the home-run race that year he was having with Marc McGwire (though McGwire was already up to 65 home runs at that point). Even the announcers were raving about it being a comeback like they'd never seen, and the crowd didn't go anywhere after the game ended: just danced to the music and sprayed beer on one another.

This game was more low-key: a 3-2 loss to Florida in 12 innings. But the girls were cute and great fun. I murmured commentary into Grace's ear through much of the game, which seemed to help her focus and enjoy it more than she might have otherwise, with much of the girls' attention given to the rock doves/pigeons in the upper deck beams above us. (Their obsession with birds continues in full force.) Sophie was practicing being absurdly cute, and proved distractingly so not just to us, but to the people sitting around us in the right field grandstand, too.

Back home, that interest paid off when I took them that evening before bed to a nearby park to see if we could get a glimpse of nighthawks. Nighthawks happen to be my favourite bird from growing up, and are utterly the sound of summer evenings in the Midwest to me. But they seem to not exist around my place in Milwaukee nor around my sister's place. For me, I suspect the overwhelming presence of seagulls being some kind of competition here, and for my sister's neighbourhood, being on an approach line for airliners as an interference for the high-flying hunters. Yet barely had we turned a corner at the end of the block when Grace and Haley's attention was drawn to a bare tree that I had to explain was dead, and not just still leafless. Then Grace pointed out a large bird in the branchs. A hawk. I couldn't believe their little birdwatchers' luck. We took a few photographs and identified it when we got home to their field guides as a Cooper's Hawk. Score one for them. We had then gone on to the park and failed to see any birds, and my offer to find one of the loud-buzzing cicadas for them was rejected with the pronouncement that cicadas were disgusting. Much climbing and sliding ensued, with some make-believe pie-shop manufacturing and sales underneath the slide for good measure.

The next day was Sunday, although somewhere along the line I'd misplaced a day and had been under the impression that our Saturday ballgame was on Friday, and that this was now Saturday. Enjoying the luxury of sleeping in on a different and luxurious mattress, Leslie woke me to tell me that she was off to Church, and I got up to have a late breakfast and help keep an eye on Grace and Haley. Only when I saw the Sunday Tribune did the answer of why Leslie was going to Church on a Saturday morning become clear to me. She gets triple Catholic Points for Attending Mass While Your Slothful Theologian Brother Is Still In Bed, so maybe that explains the slightly amused smirk I imagined I heard in her voice when she implied it was time for me to get up. (If she didn't smirk, she should have, of course.)

The afternoon featured a return to the park and Haley spotting the Cooper's Hawk in the same tree. More photographs. Lots of hope that it would take off in flight while we watched, but no luck, and the girls' lack of birdwatching patience soon became evident. More climbing and sliding. I wanted to start herding them home and agreed to a few more minutes of climbing only to watch Haley suddenly slip and fall six feet into the woodchips before I could barely twitch, much less catch her. Absolute, total horror. I was relieved to see that she had no obvious broken bones or such, but still worried about something more internal. She wouldn't speak or let me even touch her, and tried not to even show that she was crying, choking down her pain and wiping away her tears. She is so tough, and tries to be even tougher. I set out for the house immediately, knowing that she'd at least let Leslie see her. Things seemed okay after she spent a little time alone with Mommy, until she was playing and seemed less upset than I felt: I know I only have a taste of it, but the fear I endure that something would happen to them while on my watch must be something magnified a thousand times for parents. I can't believe people manage to get used to that, too, and move on with day-to-day living, but obviously they have to. When I left that evening, it was Haley who came running over to leap on me and give me a kiss good-bye, while Grace, who had been talking with me all weekend, was now the one who was shy. All of it is amazing.

Tags: family, grace, haley, personal, photography, sophia, sports, travel

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