Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends

The place where the sidewalk ends - www.alliepottswrites.com A story about a boy and a waterfall and the small differences we make which can add up to a big change.

LT sat on the tire swing in our backyard, alone. His brother had gone to play with a friend leaving LT to amuse himself while his father and I completed our chores. His legs were curled up as they wouldn’t touch the ground even if extended. As a result, the swing was nearly motionless except for a gentle sway with the breeze. I watched as his mouth move and wondered what the conversation he was having with himself might be about. He looked content, but it was a lonely image.

The last of my cleaning could wait. “Do you want to go to the park?” I called out, thinking there might be other kids he could play with. LT beamed, eagerly accepting my offer and soon we were walking down the street to our local playground. LT chattered about things like clouds, giants and other friendly monsters, smiling at everybody we passed along the way. Never once did I have to tell him to hurry up, or stay with me, or explain why he shouldn’t be carried. Who was this child?

a day at the park - www.alliepottswrites.At the park, the sun shone down with only a few clouds breaking up the brilliant expanse of the otherwise blue sky. I settled onto a bench inside the playground as LT climbed up on the play set designed for the bigger kids. “Look at me,” he shouted as he crawled through the plastic tunnel connecting a pair of slides.

I wondered why on earth we were the only ones at the park on such a lovely day. LT went down the larger of the slides. “It’s too hot mommy,” he advised as he reached the bottom. I realized the kid wasn’t exaggerating as I touched the plastic. The equipment might serve as a skillet if it was much hotter. I now understood why the playground was empty.

LT’s brother wouldn’t return for another hour or so. “How about we go on a waterfall hunt,” I suggested. The greenway was not too far away. We just had to go to the end of the sidewalk. LT beat me to the gate.

Raleigh greenway - www.alliepottswrites.comThe temperature dropped a good five to ten degrees (F) as we made our way down the gravel path connecting the trail with the outside world. As always, I felt as if we’d been teleported to some distant place as the canopy of trees stretched out above us. “This way,” LT requested, pointing in the direction of one of his favorite places along the path – a small bridge arching over an even smaller stream.

Leaving the trail, we descended down to the stream below. Large rocks enabled LT to step halfway across where he dipped his fingers into the water at the top of the small falls. “Can a waterfall move?” he asked.

“I suppose it can,” I answered, “but it takes some time to move on its own.”

We ventured further along the stream bed to where the bank was broken up by a myriad of smaller rocks and pebbles. LT reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt. Throwing it into the water, we watched as it dispersed into a ribbon-like cloud as the current took it downstream. LT grabbed a larger rock and this one too went into the water with a plunk, but unlike the dirt, the rock remained in place. You could almost see the gears turning in his head.

“Can you make a waterfall?” he asked.

Raleigh hidden gem - www.alliepottswrites.comOnce again I nodded and soon he was grabbing rocks, twigs, and bits of dirt. The water bulged where LT had added his obstacles, rising over the additional rocks as it rejoined the existing flow. It was hardly Niagara Falls, but it was enough of a difference in height for LT to declare success.

I knew by this time his brother was likely home and would be looking to share his own adventures with us. “Are you ready to go home and tell Daddy all about your waterfall?” I asked.

“But it’s not my waterfall, mommy,” he answered with a smile. “It’s ours.”

“All I did was stand here,” I countered as my heart did a little flip-flop as it tried not to melt.

“But you were here with me,” he replied.

It was a comment that probably kept him from getting grounded for life when he decided to lock himself in his room later that night in protest rather than get ready for bed. Ah, kids. And like that he was once again the child I recognized.

I’ve thought about the stream and our waterfall. He only moved a few rocks, true, but even so, the stream will never be exactly the same. The newly formed eddy, as small as it is, will cut into the stream bed creating new paths for the current to flow. These underwater paths, these series of small adjustments, might go for years unseen but will continue to trigger more changes. Another rock might shift. Another eddy form. Until one day, years from now, someone might dip his or her finger into the top of a waterfall where one did not previously exist – all thanks to LT and the difference he made at the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow, and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go, for the children, they mark, and the children, they know the place where the sidewalk ends.” – Shel Silverstein

And it will be our waterfall because you were here with me. We’re never as alone as it seems. I know we can move waterfalls. All it takes is to first be willing to make a small change.

Just an average evening in the life of budding geniuses

“How long were you under there?”

It was cat herding time once again at the Potts household also known as the half hour before bedtime. I was attempted to get a few last-minute chores in while simultaneously getting the boys ready for nighttime. I ignored Kiddo’s question, focusing instead on the task at hand.

“How long were you under there?” Kiddo repeated.

Kiddo’s voice broke through my concentration. What an odd question, I thought. I hadn’t been under anything that I could recall that evening unless you take into consideration pending deadlines, a cycle of never-ending dish washing, and self-imposed writing goals. But Kiddo has rarely, if ever, asked me how my work is going, so that couldn’t be it. “Under where?” I asked.

“You said underwear!” Kiddo threw back his head in laughter.

I sat there, stunned as the punch line sunk in. Kiddo had gotten me. I marveled at his maturing sense of humor, at the genius of the joke’s simplicity as well as Kiddo’s execution. It was a long way from his very first joke, “Once upon a time, there was a joke named joke and he was a joke!” (*da dum dum da* he’ll be here all week folks) I joined his laughter. “Very clever,” I said as I returned to my chores. “I made you said underwear!” Kiddo repeated, delighted with himself. “I got Daddy to say it too!” (word of caution to Kiddo’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and assorted other caregivers – he’s really proud of this one, expect to hear it, over and over and over again)

Tears of laughter were welling up in Kiddo’s eyes as he turned to his brother and asked once again, “LT, how long were you under there.”

Without missing a beat, LT answers, “three minutes,” effectively beating his brother at his own game. I don’t know what exactly LT was supposedly under for three minutes (I mean I thought he was in my line of sight all this time, but with LT you never really know for sure) or how he knew the precise time, because he didn’t elaborate. Instead, LT immediately returned to plotting whatever nefarious plan to rule the world he is attempting next. This is also why I think he might just succeed.

So clearly I recognize that I am living with a budding evil genius, but maybe you don’t yet recognize the signs. If you are afraid you too may be raising the next crop of megalomaniacs intent on world domination, you may want to be on the lookout for a few of the following:

  1. Do they frequently use your best of intentions for their own gain?
    • You said the first day of summer is the longest day of the year. It was supposed to be a fun little fact to amuse and educate your offspring with. Instead you get, “If Mr. Sun isn’t going to bed, why do I have to?”
  2. Have you picked up an alarming “minion” vibe from their closest friends?
    • monkey toys

      exhibit A: The usual suspects

  3. Do you find yourself struggling to maintain your game face when they turn up the charm?
    • Because it is bedtime.
    • But why?
    • Because it is a school night and you have to go to bed now.
    • I no wanna go to school anyyyyyy mo.
    • You like school. All your friends will be at school. Don’t you want to play with your friends?
    • But I love you, momma. I wan to stay with you. Five mo minutes? (cue quivering lip)
    • (As little arms encircle your neck in best snuggle hug ever, feel your will break… Again.) Okay honey, five more minutes, but then it is bedtime. I mean it.
  4. Do they have an unusually intense obsession with potential lairs
    • volcano

      Exhibit B : Depiction of an erupting volcano. Note the artist’s use of broad strokes and bold colors to convey violence – one of many examples lining our walls

  5. Are they entirely too smart for their own good?
    • Reference story above

On the plus side, the children have decided to grace me with more than a couple of nights in a row of sleep. Obviously, they are up to something, but I’ve been taking advantage of it while I can. I’ve made significant gains in my manuscript (even though this current draft is pretty terrible, even by first draft standards) and have been taking a stab at some shorter fiction (I may even try to find homes for some of them). I’d better take advantage. Who knows when this opportunity might come again.