Here’s how to have a picnic on a Friday morning: Wake up really early on Thursday, roughly 4:45am, contemplate burrowing further under the sheets. Remind yourself not to check your email because you read somewhere that the first thing you read in the morning sits under your skin a bit longer than the rest. Remember you read that in the morning, so notion confirmed. Decide to scan a devotional about motherhood and summer and seizing the day. Close the book. Announce to no one, “Today will be the day for spontaneity.” Shower.
Brush teeth. Remember that you have deadlines today, so instead, mark your calendar for Friday and call tomorrow Official Spontaneity Day. Spit, rinse. Think about getting some ice cream for the occasion, but remember it’s only spontaneous if it happens in the moment so decide to go to the store tomorrow.
Finish your work day: send a million emails, close Internet browser tabs, schedule a few posts for Official Spontaneity Day so you’re not technically missing work and draft your out-of-office reply. Refill your coffee. Decide not to turn on your out-of-office-reply, because that’s not spontaneous, right? Leave it off. Close the computer. Pick up ice cream on the way home. Stand in the middle of the freezer aisle – Moose Tracks or Phish Food – and realize you weren’t supposed to do this yet. It’s not Friday, this isn’t spontaneous. Leave with bread and eggs.
Make your family an omelette, set the table and announce that tomorrow is Official Spontaneity Day! Tell your husband we’re all going for a picnic, and ignore his questioning on whether or not that’s truly a spontaneous decision. Decide spontaneity has a 12 hour window, so if you leave just after sunrise on Friday morning you’ll have made the cut. Pass him the hot sauce. Fill your daughter’s sippy cup with more ice, always more ice.
Give your daughter a bath. Notice her toenails are getting long. Make a note to cut them tomorrow. Can you cut toenails on Official Spontaneity Day? Sing “Wheels on the Bus” again. Wonder what the walrus on the bus goes. “Hmmph, hmmph, hmmph” you decide, because walruses have trouble fitting their wide unders through the aisle.
Pass off the toddler to her Dad for nighttime duty – stories and milk. Pack your favorite tote, the new one that smells of leather and dreams. Fill her picnic basket with “Mickey-damia” nuts, raisins, broccoli. Wish you’d bought the ice cream.
Wake up early the next morning, before your alarm. Sneak out of the house to finish work. Check emails, get overwhelmed with the to do list. Push your “I should cancel the picnic” thought down a flight of stairs, gather your things and arrive home to a sleepy-eyed toddler in an oversized lion shirt. She asks for an adventure between forkfuls of avocado and berries. “Yes!” you say. “A picnic by the pond.” Wonder if that’s spontaneous enough, watch for a reaction. Smile as her eyes to light up. Realize every day is Official Spontaneity Day for her.
Throw your tote and picnic basket in the car. Drive to the secret pond you found in mid-June when you took a walk and the sky was angry. It rained and rained and rained; you cried, over everything and nothing, and then marked it your secret pond.
Arrive at the dock, spread out snacks. Open a book and start reading to the toddler. Fight the disappointment you feel when she wriggles away. Let her run; today is a day to explore. Throw rocks, smell flowers, point at reflections in the water. Note the ripples. Again, again, again.
Stop to catch your breath. Hear crickets sing, leaves dance. Watch her play, from afar. She’s a worker bee, flitting about – pollinating flowers – leaving time and life and moments behind. Sit still with your mind, hold your breath as long as you can.
Feel heat on your shoulders and notice that the sun is high – it’s nearing nap time. Pack up the snacks, the unread book, the snagged blanket. Scoop up your daughter, survey her scraped knee, muddy sandals, dirty toes. Make a mental note to cut her toenails, but later. It’s time for ice cream.