It drizzled on Monday afternoon. Actually, it wasn’t so much of a drizzle as it was a spattering of rain. There were enough drops falling that Maly warranted bringing an umbrella.
I’d come home from work that evening as I usually do. The usual route. The sky was spattering enough so if the rush hour traffic moved any negligible distance, I had to manually activate the windshield wiper every quarter mile. So it was that kind of rain. Welcomed, but worthless in Austin in August.
When I got home, I was inclined to just sit on the rug in the living room with the family. No one said anything. We just sort of sat there, waiting on someone to do something. Elise to announce she was going to cook dinner. One of the girls to announce that one of them was going to do whatever one of them was going to do. I had no agenda. I just sat there quietly among my best friend and brood.
I was antsy for whatever reasons. I wanted to do something with my oldest. Play a game. But not a game like Chutes and Ladders — no, more like the game where you and a friend start drawing a maze together on a single piece of paper. A maze with spike pits and other booby traps. Or maybe I wanted her and myself to play Legos. Or I could take my phone out of my pocket and check my work email. I was still antsy and I didn’t want to do any of those things.
Finally I just stood up and said, “Maly, come on. Let’s go for a walk.”
Maly was excited because we were going out in the rain. The spattering rain that wouldn’t collect on a windshield unless you were driving against it. She didn’t need the umbrella, but she wanted it. So she took the umbrella with us and she opened it as we exited the house through the front door and she held it over her head the entire time over the miles we covered together.
We walked down our street to where we could no longer walk straight. We turned right. We walked down that street until we ran out of street. And we kept walking forward. I took my daughter over the hill of the dead end street through the little trail that divides two parts of our neighborhood. One day this little unpaved nature alley will be a park. The city and our neighborhood recently deemed this to be true. Maly had never been by this trail. She was fascinated that it even existed. I think she was in awe that I knew that it existed, even though it’s only a few hundred yards from our front door.
It was when we left the concrete and the eye shot of similar houses and landscaping that we naturally fell into conversation. Something she and I hadn’t done in a very long time. It was then that the thoughts of games and Legos and emails and the perceived need for a umbrella just didn’t matter anymore.
She told me about how she likes to stay at home instead of going shopping and running errands with her mom. I told her how one day she will come to miss and cherish those fleeting and trivial moments. I told her how I miss and long for those trivial and fleeting moments with my mom. I told her about how I never really knew my dad when I probably needed to know him the most. I told her that her grandpa was always working when I’d made it to young adulthood. Her grandpa woke up well before me and drove the hour plus to Houston ever day long before I was awake. And her grandpa would come home in the early evening while I was still at school, or participating in extracurricular activities like sports, or play practice, or teaching or taking Tae Kwon Do classes, or working in some kitchen on the town square. My mom was the caregiver, and that usually meant that I was was her companion on the errands. And since my mom and I didn’t drive to Houston five days a week like my dad did, often times we wanted to drive to Houston and be among the options and experiences. And the dentist and automotive appointments were in Houston. And sometimes the grocery or the speciality stores.
I spent a lot of time in a car with her grandma. I’ve never been one to wear my heart on my sleeve or engage in talk for the sake of conversation. My mom always did most of the talking, and she did the best job I think she knew how in asking me questions and engaging me.
I had a lot of meaningful experiences, and now fond memories of those fleeting moments when it was just my mom and me, running errands and talking to each other. I told my daughter that she’ll probably one day miss those boring trips to the grocery store, or to the other store to buy toilet paper and toothpaste and cushions for the patio furniture.
While she was still carrying the umbrella that’s too big for her and with one of the spokes occasionally poking me in the arm as we walked the trail side by side she asked me about secrets. She asked me if it was okay to keep secrets. And she asked me if, when she eventually married, would that mean that she would have to expose all of her secrets to her husband.
I told her that secrets were okay, so long as they didn’t hurt anyone or hurt herself. I tried to explain to her the peacefulness and catharsis of having a clear conscious. I also explained our intrinsic fallibility.
And then she asked me about religion. She didn’t ask me any direct questions on beliefs, but I think she wanted to know if it was okay for the secular and non to be friends and to marry. I used the strength of her mom’s and my relationship as an example. I used the strength of her maternal grandparents’ and my relationship as an example. I used the differences in everyday people as an example in how to forge lasting and loving relationships.
And when we rounded last the corner and started making our way home, I spotted a baby mourning dove perched on the stem of a red yucca blossom near the ground. I pointed to the little bird. Maly found this to be the highlight of our walk and existential conversations.
I looked up into the oak tree above us. The mom was perched directly above, and calmly and patiently and lovingly exchanging glances between me, my brood and her own.