The March wind blew and Ben squealed with delight. “Look, Jim, the petals are running!” Ben’s voice carried at 120 decibels and I gripped Ben’s hand and while the breeze rustled my older son’s wavy, dark blond hair, my throat ached and I worried that my youngest child would scream about the petals for the rest of the morning. So I held his little hand and watched the petals running and part of my brain laughed with Ben; and yet, I lectured him in a stentorian tone that he needed to “behave in class.”
“Dolly!” Ben spotted the neighbors tan, nondescript new not-puppy and raced across the street after her. My neighbor is my age but she manages to look like a grown up every time I see her and today was no different. It’s hard to explain but when I am near her I realize I never really grew up. I don’t know why. She always knows what to say and when to say it and yet I stood beside her and another mom and wanted to cry, “Watch the petals run,” but Ben yelled it for me. She nodded, cheekbones set in a kind but serious way and she took the leash for Dolly from her daughter and never lost a beat in the conversation she was having with another mom.
“BUS!!!!” Screamed a sixth grade girl at the top of her lungs. She does this every damn morning, and it makes sense when the bus arrives early and the safety patrol needs to sprint two blocks to catch the bus but on mornings like this when we’re all standing two feet away it makes no sense so I tightened my jaw and hugged first my daughter, and then my eldest son, and then I came to Ben. He was turned the wrong way and hopped up and down and the wind kicked up again and he watched the petals running . . .
“Ben. Ben. Look at me, Ben!” I leaned over and cupped his face between my adult-size small hands and his eyes followed the petals while my eyes followed the sun glinting off the massive tulip tree between my house and our neighbor’s colonial “Five, four and a door.” The tulip tree’s leaves were blooming today, not yellow, but the lightest shade of green I’d ever seen and it looked and felt so damn gorgeous against the clear blue morning sky . . . I tore my eyes away and focused on my son. “Ben! Look at me, Ben.” One eye shifted to me and the other eye followed the petals. “I need you to pay attention hun. And give me a hug.” I gripped his shoulders and propelled him from the back of the line toward the bus and I waved at him but he didn’t wave back because he didn’t see me. He only saw the running petals.
My neighbors spoke to one another in quiet, grown-up tones and one of them mentioned the brisk wind and all I wanted to do was watch the petals running. I shoved my hands into the pocket of my old jeans that fit just right and the wind gusted and the petals careened in a circle dance in the middle of the street. Then about 25 petals rolled end over end from the other side of the street toward my house and it could have been a team of cheerleaders performing cartwheels until the petals glided to a resting position beside the white, concrete curb.
I smiled. The wind blew again but I did not feel cold. Ten more soft pink-white petals danced up and down like horses prancing with delicate, shod feet in a dressage competition. I don’t know how you make a horse dance like that but I know now that soft, pretty petals from a massive cherry tree will dance and run across the street all morning if the wind blows just right.
And about a mile away, a 5-year old named Ben is sitting in class, grinning with mad élan, as he imagines petals running across a dark grey, almost black asphalt street.