Monday started off wonderfully in the Boston area. The Red Sox were playing their annual morning game, the marathon was starting up with no sign of imminent danger, and the weather had finally shaken off its prolonged winter chill for bright sunshine and blue skies. A festive atmosphere was evident from the very beginning that day and there were plenty of options in the city for entertaining my 2-year-old Audrey. So what did I do?
I took her to a cemetery.
Mount Auburn Cemetery to be exact. Merely calling it a cemetery is not doing it justice, however. In addition to housing the remains of the deceased–many of which are famous, including Isabella Stewart Gardner, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mary Baker Eddy, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow–the sprawling site is also a National Historic Landmark and botanical garden. Upon entering the nearly 200-year-old cemetery, all sights and sounds typically associated with the big city quickly melt away, replaced by the soft rustle of wind through the trees and the cries of birds that live amongst them. This peaceful serenity makes it an ideal place to put the stresses of modern day life behind and simply wander through its scenic beauty.
That was my plan at least. Audrey, however, had different aspirations.
Sticks. Always with the sticks. “Audrey, wanna look at the pretty lake?” No, dad. Stick. “Let’s walk up this hill and look around, okay?” No, dad. Stick. “Audrey, see that birdy up there? It’s colorful, isn’t it?”
No, dad. Stick.
The Almighty Power of Stick had won again. Thankfully, with my daughter, there is one thing that trumps its power. And that’s other people. My wife and I have taken to calling her “The Mayor” because she can’t help but socialize with every single person she comes in contact with. And she’s good at it too. So good that she often comes off as a skilled, long-time politician accustomed to shaking hands and kissing babies.
And as you might have guessed, The Mayor struck again at Mount Auburn.
This couple had no idea that they were about to meet The Mayor when they visited the cemetery for a peaceful springtime stroll, but meet her they did. Upon seeing them, Audrey rushed over to them, waving her hands and cheerfully yelling, “Hi!!!” Luckily they seemed to genuinely enjoy her presence. Even when she wouldn’t stop chasing them down the path.
You’re not getting away that easily, nice couple. She’s gaining on you.
Wait, she turned around. Is she actually going to leave these people in peace?
Eventually she did give up the chase. But now what to do?
Stand in my shadow for one.
Squat endlessly over a pebbly path–will I EVER learn?–for another.
Eventually I managed to convince her to follow me over to Mary Baker Eddy’s memorial. After all, it is pretty hard to miss.
I didn’t take all the stairs into consideration, however. Do all kids enjoy stairs as much as mine does? Here’s going down:
And here’s going up:
And here’s going down again:
She must have gone around and around the memorial a dozen times. And did I mention The Mayor showed up again? A poor woman had decided to sit on those steps and read a book in peace that day. But reading around The Mayor is not easy. “Hi!” she exclaimed each and every time she circled the monument. “What you reading?” “You reading?” “I climb steps!” “Me Audrey!” And on and on and on… I dare say the woman didn’t get through two pages while we were there. But The Mayor’s enthusiasm is infectious, thankfully, and she–like the other couple–seemed perfectly fine being interrupted by this pint-sized politician.
Eventually, she did stop for a respite. Which was good. I needed it. And after expending so much energy, perhaps she did too.
In the two hours we spent at Mount Auburn Cemetery, I’d say we only saw about ten percent of it. The sprawling landmark still had many more mysteries to uncover, such as the graves of its other famous inhabitants and its famous Washington Tower, providing 360 degree views of the city and surrounding countryside. In other words, there remain many reasons to return.
I’m sure Audrey and I will return to Mount Auburn too, and soon. And I will do my best to visit what we have thus far missed. But the thing about 2-year-olds is, you can’t count on seeing the sites on your checklist. In fact, just throw the checklist out. That’s because it can’t compete with sticks, pebbly paths, stairs, and extremely interesting innocent bystanders. You just have to go with the flow. The entire world holds so much mystery and wonder to a child that even the most mundane thing, like rocks, can provide endless interest. And while I might be a jaded thirtysomething who no longer sees the world with boundless wonder, who am I to take it away from my daughter?
So I stand there while she digs in the dirt. I help her pick out a good stick to dig with. I find joy in letting her try to stay in my shadow.
Because that’s what being a parent is all about.