Being the youngest, I spent many summer days walking with my mother a few blocks to purchase and carry the day’s meal. We went almost every day – there wasn’t much a middle-aged woman and a four-year-old could carry – but going to the market was our routine. I never questioned the monotony, but I imagine my mother did.
My summers were spent going to the grocer, and when I became older they included many unsupervised play dates down the street, or worse yet, adult-less supervision in my parent’s backyard swimming pool. My mother never cared to watch us swim. I learned to swim by myself and my new-found summer friends discovered the joys of the water when they visited me on Mansfield Avenue.
My favorite picture of my mother is with me, walking hand-in-hand as we prepared to shovel a driveway after the great Chicago snowstorm of 1967. I was the same age Joe is now – 4 – and I’m happy. I hate snow but for some reason, on this particular day in my life, I’m sporting a huge grin and I’m happy.
That photo is more than 40 years old, and at 46, I’m the same age my mother was in the picture. I’m still happy and if my mother were still alive, she would be smiling too. She would be happy that I’m a 4-year-old’s mother, and happy that I am the wife of a man who respects my independence. My hunch is she would say, “It’s about time you got out of the damn cold.” She was the one who dreamed big.
My summers are spent driving now, going to the occasional grocer, or maybe four because I have choices. And Joe’s life is filled with parks, libraries, parties, restaurants, museums, beaches, fresh-picked fruit, and adult supervision, at least for now.
I’d like to think Joe is happy. Maybe we need to shovel some snow ... and take a picture.