it's a beautiful summer in morgantown. there is water, the kind you can play in. lakes and rivers and ponds. miniature forest waterfalls, which i discovered with friends many years ago. child and daylight hours willing, i'll rediscover them before the season settles down for a 9-month nap; if not, i'm content just knowing they're close by. there are big swatches of grass for sitting and running and lying down. there are patios and paddle boats. and parks and parks and parks! of every size; with noise or silence; in town and on the outskirts. there is outdoor music. cracks in neighborhood sidewalks for little boys to jump over. a busy downtown with friendly strangers to pet friendly pit bulls.
i have life-size hopes for the summer, or rather, for me in its hot, blurry expanse. i want to meet the mornings early rather than late so i can take my boy to the park or the pool and get home in time for his nap, which is nature's medicine for both of us. i want pizza, maybe once a week from the riverfront coal-fired place with the cool deck or the NY-style place that only does takeout or, if a walk downtown is in order, the place that's the late-night favorite of drunk college kids and used to have the best slices in town until some obviously nonitalian family bought it. and i must have lots and lots of the best ice cream ever, rita's custard style, so thick i could almost cut it with a knife. i want to be able to say to my dog, "yes, jokey, you're coming" at least
once per day when he runs to grab his leash if i get too close to the
front door. that dog. i've loved him from the start, even when i didn't
intend to keep him, but now ... now he's my only dog, and now i'm head
over heels because in only a month here he's been such a good, good boy. and my boy! i want endless sunny afternoons lit all the more by his smile, which inevitably turns his two-year-old face into a replica of mine at that age. when he laughs really hard, his two slightly big front teeth become exclamation points popping out from behind his lips. i love to watch him run on the grassy hillside by the river downtown, partly because his joy is, as they say, contagious, and partly because his flapping arms and unsteady gait make him look like a little penguin. one day he'll run like a big boy and it won't be funny anymore.
this summer, i've got it: the life on which i had set my sights three years ago come mid-july. i'm here with my boy and my dog and we have a comfy little place to call ours. and i get paid to write! what a dream. it could only be dreamier if there were even more clients and a recurring article in an online or print magazine or newspaper. i get to work in my pajamas. or whatever i feel like wearing, which is usually not pajamas but the workout clothes in which i'll eventually jog through town, big-wheeled stroller in one hand, leash in the other. working with a mercurial toddler in my face every few minutes isn't ideal—but then, it is. it's the way i originally envisioned it. no daycare. just us. i don't have enough help, but what i have makes sense. my parents. they have a beautiful relationship with my son. he's the moon to their tide. he visits them and spends time with my brother, who also adores him in his understated, funny way. it's the best it can be.
this summer, i've become a real-deal, stay-at-home, work-at-home single mother. what a mouthful ... for a handful ... that's me, i'm told. makes sense. "single mom" ... i wince at that label because i'm afraid it sounds pitiful. nobody really wants pity, do they? i think what most people actually want is understanding. yes. YES. please. i want you to understand that unless you've experienced it, you don't understand it—and i'll do the same for you. i want you to not diminish my feelings with your feelings—and i'll do the same for you. i want you to apologize—and i will too. this will all take some practice. it'll never be perfect. keep practicing. things will feel nicer. that's the best it can be.
today i took my dog to a park i'd never seen. ten minutes or so outside town. there were campgrounds and playgrounds and ponds. we walked and walked. families fished and picnicked. from a distance over the hill, small children with unremarkable features squealed and splashed in dollar-store inner tubes. strangers remarked at my handsome spotted dog and how he listened when i said "stay" while i took his picture. the sun grew larger above us, turning up the color of the grass from bright to neon. i wrote a belated email by the pond. private joker waited patiently. i ate stale sesame sticks from the reusable, environmentally friendly snack bag that was sent to me as a sample when i was a magazine editor in memphis. my spotted dog's panting became louder with the sun. we packed up.
back in my car, i noticed the passenger seat was filthy and covered in dog hair, despite how i'd tried to cover it with a sheet. i thought i'd clean it when i got home. i didn't. i've been here: typing. stopping to discuss dinner plans with an old friend. typing some more. thinking about stopping to do some squats. typing again. wondering what happened to the huge rat who appeared to be dying in my yard this morning but was gone when i returned. hoping this summer will bring backyard cookouts with a group of friends i don't yet have. pining for the ocean.
this city has given my life color again. the summer is as wide open as the sky. i bow in gratitude.