3 BRs, EIK, W/D, squeals of laughter

Elaine Luddy Klonicki, Columnist

A neighbor came to visit last evening. He didn’t ring the bell or knock on the door; he was just there on the front porch when my husband Gary opened the door to go out. He didn’t say much and he didn’t stay long.

I guess he was doing what my parents used to call “pop-calling.” They’d go out in the evening to visit the neighbors, and would “pop in” for a few minutes at each house. Since our move, we haven’t had the opportunity to meet many of our neighbors yet. Except for the Girl Scouts, of course.

When Gary called Jenny, our daughter, and me to greet our guest, we thought he was crazy. There was no one there! Used to his practical jokes, we were headed back inside when he pointed to the porch floor. There sat a big, brown frog.

Excited, we tried to talk to our “guest,” but he just sat there, unresponsive. We would have offered him some Girl Scout Cookies, but we weren’t sure about his diet. By the time Gary got back from the Y, the frog was gone. But the moment had brightened our day, and it wasn’t the only surprise we’ve had since we moved here.

On New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, we heard a loud boom, and it sounded close. Up the street, in perfect view from our porch, I saw a huge bottle rocket go off. And then another, and another. I called Gary, and together we watched fifteen minutes of fairgrounds-like fireworks exploding across the sky.

We have great views from this house; we see the sunrise from the upstairs den in the morning, and the sunset from the front windows at night. When the moon is full, it appears in our high window in the living room, just before first light in the morning.

(Which reminds me that, when our family first moved to Raleigh, my mom used to tell her friends up North that it is always sunny in Raleigh and we have a full moon every night!)

Other things show up perfectly framed in those high windows as well: Canada geese, hawks, and—my favorite—tiny birds that peek in to see what we’re up to. They seem as fascinated with us as the busy squirrel who stops every now and then to eye us as he scoots across our back porch.

Just this week daffodils started springing up out front, a delayed gift from one of the previous owners. As a friend who also just moved and claims to have as brown a thumb as I do says about her blooms, “maybe they don’t know that I’m here yet.”

But the gift I treasure most is the sound of the children on the schoolyard behind us, playing at recess. For a moment on moving day, dog-tired and cranky, I wondered if the noise would irritate us.

Instead I find that, no matter what kind of day I’m having, as soon as I hear the kids playing, I pause, and relax. The squealing and laughing instantly take me back. Recess was always the best part of the day, and the only part not weighted down with uniforms, schoolwork, and chores.

Of all the things we can learn from children, the most essential might be the importance of sheer, unabashed joy. Or as they say in preschool, the opportunity to “shake your sillies out.”

Well, I’ve got to go. It’s almost time for recess and I don’t want to miss it!

This article first appeared in The News and Observer, March 24, 2006

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