Oklahoma City family fun happens on an ordinary Thursday.
Finding your place in the community is every person's task. That's difficult for adults sometimes, in certain settings anyway. It's not so much an existential question as just one about belonging. We all find our place and settle into different roles, reinforced by what's around us.
Kids have even less to go on sometimes.
I remember public television in the late 1980s with Mr. Rogers singing "Will you be my neighbor?" and Sesame Street's "These are the people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day" with possible professions like a grocer, a mailman and a milkman. The milkman is long gone, at least in our corner of Central Oklahoma, as we stream content from YouTube to show our own kids what we used to watch. They sing with us, repeating words that seem foreign and outdated now, not really sure what they're saying.
The community has a way of tying up loose ends, though. There are unusual experiences just waiting us to find them, mostly unnoticed by adults but more easily recognized by children.
Isaac is 4 and the difference between real and pretend is difficult to pinpoint. A unicorn could be as real as a milkman or an artist because he hadn't met any of the three until recently.
Last week, though, we went into our usual coffee shop and there was an art student drawing by herself in a quiet corner. Isaac noticed her right away and asked to see her picture in the unassuming way only kids can. A wolf sketched in silver pencil on black blotter paper filled the page; his breath seemed to fill its corners with vapor on a cold night, soft marks shaded into pencil lines to form droplets. She explained that she learned to draw before she could write and still loved to do that, now as an artist. A carefully tattooed hot air balloon stood out on her leg and the artist told us how she designed that too.
Isaac nodded solemnly and took it all in.
"Artists are real, Mom," he concluded.
We waited for our drinks and the artist stopped by our table to say goodbye. She asked how to spell Isaac's name and wrote a quick dedication: "To Isaac, fellow and future artist. I wish you the best of luck."
"He made my day! I want him to have it," she said, beaming.
I promised her we would frame it and we did.
I hung it between a map in my sons' room that says "Adventure awaits," scrawled in black cursive, and a picture of a canoe with the word "Explore." I've never stayed in one place long enough to have themed rooms or to bother decorating at all. My sons, though, are here, and this is their time and their space.
They live in this community until the time that it boosts them up to take their place or find another in the great wide world.
The wolf seemed like the perfect addition and I know Isaac will remember where it came from, more meaningful than stock art and a décor theme his mom chose.
We're doing the gloRUN this Saturday night, a community event that makes Mitch Park seem more fun than ever. We went last year, decked out in glow sticks and neon colors. The ordinary experience of running in the park is much more fun when it's with other people, running in the dark.
Being part of something larger than just our little family is important. It helps us find our way back, point the compass back to N again after a long time away. Self is part of that, even if we're not quite sure just who these three little boys will be quite yet. They'll show us soon enough.
Our days are anything but ordinary with so much to see and do. There's magic in every corner if you know how to see it; if you've forgotten, your child can point you in the right direction.
Mine seem to prove that on weeks both busy and boring. Have fun finding it together!