Today we take our year-old dauhgter Ulyana to the playground in the nearby park. It’s really close and even can be seen from our window. But for her it is a true journey, so we take a pram with us.
After some maneuvers among the roaring automobiles we reach the playground, take Ulyana from her transport and put her on the ground. Ulyana is so clumsy in her winter rompers, just like a cosmonaut in a space suit, and just like a moon-lander she looks around with surprise and delight. At first she freezes and stands even not turning her head: the things around are so new and surprising! Strange motley installations, the purpose of which is mysterious, the cries of children playing, and, most importantly, kids themselves. Smaller ones are staying in prams or in parents hands those that are older — rush at full speed, it is difficult for Uliana to keep up with them. But of course she is attracted to the senior kids, stretches her hand and pulls me along.
Still she does not dare to intervene in their “big games” and keeps a few steps away.
Ulyana feels interested in everything: why a boy is climbing up this thing? Oh, a girl approaches a small house, and there is another girl looking out of its window, and they are making grimaces to each other! How many wonders! And where is that boy running? And who screamed there? Ulyana does not know how to play yet, she is more interested in exploring. Although her greatest interest is other kids, she is not averse to ride a roller coaster or a carousel, or even better to try to whirl it herself, and Ulyana does it with a focused and serious face and with a little help from me. Her eye can even be catched by a piece of garbage on the ground…
Unfortunately, in all of this noisy splendour a child can become inperceptive to some truly beautiful things, so I specialy draw her attention to doggies, birdies and other interesting stuff.
Ulyanka helps me to see the surrounding objects as though for the first time. With her I never hurry and have time to see and hear the world around. I look to the melting snow: at the top of old drifts it is white, and is getting darker closer to the foot, but the dregs of the thawed patches and black of the dirty snow are divided by the gilding edge. I distinguish special subtle creak in the noise of flying pigeons. And I can’t wait to see with her, with her eyes, the grass and firs leaves.
Even at home Ulyana always finds new wonders: a ball, rolled under the sofa, a bearded uncle Karl on the cover of father’s book, an operating washing machine. I can not help to sit down beside her and stare at the whirlwind of clothes and bubbles… Ulyana brings me different things, and I admire them together with her: a closed jar with something jingling in it, an doll’s necklace… hey, it’s my phone!
Ulyana is also infinitely happy with her own body: with legs that run, and that can be put in the mouth, hair, in which she can fumble her fingers while thinking, a navel, which, as it turned out, even mom and dad have. Looking at her, I understand, how it is to exist, my memory suddenly returns to me my lost childhood experiences.
Now I go out to walk in the courtyard again, it became my little universe, which I thoroughly study. I take a closer look at everything in it, I got acquainted with so many neighbours. It is easy, when you and them have children of the same age. That is why I know them not by their names but by the names of their kids: the mother of little Christina, the granny of little Arsik, the father of little Seva. Fathers are less talkative, they are reluctant to support a conversation about their children, but mothers and grandmothers are always ready to tell the exactl number of teeth of their babies, and how they sleep and eat, and how their belly is working.
With time Ulyana becomes more succesful at ruining my work. It offends her that daddy is staring at the computer and doesn’t play with her, even if there is someone else to play with in the room. And seem blessed those days, when it is possible to lend Ulyana to her grandmother living nearby. Then I can quickly and effectivly work and find some time for creativity.
Well, that’s all done, and I walk outdoors to give some rest to my eyes. But, strange to say, without Ulyana I feel like a stranger in the yard. Many neighbours do not recognize me without my daughter, and those who do, straight away ask me, where is she. And I do not understand where to put myself, for outdoors I got used to follow my clumsy little daughter. Now it seems to me, that I move too quickly and directly, constantly dumping into running children and spoiling their games.
I’m embarrassed to approach the sandbox, though lately I’ve learned to make great sand mud pies, I’m embarrassed to answer questions of familiar children (I mean, of course, they are not mine, but Ulyana’s friends), I’m embarrassed to start talking with the young mothers.
I sit on the edge of the bench, flip a couple of pages, and run for Ulyana to bring her here until our mutual friends – children and their parents – are still here and haven’t returned to their homes for dinner.