The kids ran down the sidewalk. I worried about Annika tripping and falling on the cement, skinning her knees. I resisted the urge to yell "Be careful!" or some other inane motherly warning. Annika had her short little jean skirt on, the one that says "CUTE" on the rear end. She was wearing her ladybug sandals, which she got on with only a little bit of help from me. Gabriel had shorts and a t-shirt on, too, and sandals, which I think are too small for his feet. He won't admit that, though, insisting they are still comfortable. The kids were excited to be going to the library, and happily turned the corner to the gravel path that cuts through the greenbelt.
Soon we were under the trees. The path changed from gravel to wood chips. I lifted my sunglasses off my eyes to perch on the top of my head. The shade felt soothing. The forest smelled damp, shady, alive. Gabriel said, "I like it here." I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly, so I asked him "You like it here?" "Yeah, I like it here," he said. "I wish I could live here. I wish my home was in the forest. I would be an animal or a bird or an owl. I'd live right here next to the stream." We continued over the culvert that the stream passes through, and soon were out the other side of the greenbelt, back into the sun, kids running down the sidewalk, past City Hall, and onto the noise and chaos of storytime. Our snippet of a conversation felt like we had stepped into another time frame for the few moments it took us to walk through the forest. I didn't have a chance to tell Gabriel that I used to want to live in the forest when I was a child. In fact, there is a secret, deep place in me that still does, that wants to find a little cabin, plant a big garden, take long walks in the woods, have a wood stove and a water pump, and do whatever it is that people do who live in the woods. It would be difficult to make it to storytime, though!