As a child, I played outside every single day in my Miami suburbia neighborhood. I ran barefoot through mud while sprinklers sprayed the lawn. I played basketball in the street with the neighbors. I created chalk art up and down our sidewalks. I played softball in backyards where we used our shoes as our bases and felt the grass between our toes.
As a teenager, I turned mostly into a city girl. My days were spent on the phone, shopping, drinking Starbucks, and hanging out with my friends. I was an athlete and got outside time during our games and practices, but my free time, outside of time spent playing softball, was certainly spent indoors.
As an adult, my outside time was spent at Disney or the beach. I lost the part of myself that was connected to the earth and I never missed it. Until my life changed. Until the world changed. And I suddenly found myself pregnant with twins in a pandemic. High risk twin pregnancy, even without the pandemic, was made more high risk with a virus running rampant. My wife, the breadwinner in our house, was furloughed. Our beloved cat of 11 years died suddenly and tragically in our arms. My family living with us temporarily, was spending more time than anticipated attending open houses as a result of a closed, newly masked world.
I found myself, a person with diagnosed anxiety, feeling the stress of my circumstances. Sometimes when the stress would hit new heights, I would waddle my round pregnant body to what was normally a deserted backyard. Being out there, sometimes with my wife or my family, and other times alone, I could breathe again. My mind would stop racing and my heart would feel a little lighter, as I would rub my belly and feel the babies move while feeling the breeze blow my hair with the sun shining on my face.
Now, with the babies here, I find a similar phenomena occurring. The world is still in a pandemic and my pandemic babies have spent the majority of their lives inside our house. We take daily walks to try to get some outside time, breathe in some fresh air, and get a change of scenery. During this time, I noticed that my wild children inside the house- the ones that had us rushing to baby proof everything since they are climbing and in perpetual motion- are still. They don’t cry. They don’t whine. They stop wiggling. They spend our walks quietly looking around, taking in a world they haven’t been allowed to explore.
So one day, in what has now become our little Saturday mid-day ritual, I grabbed our outdoor play pen tent, popped it open on the front lawn, laid out some blankets, spread out a few toys, and brought them outside to lay in the shade and just be. Once again, they were in awe of just the every day in our little neighborhood: cars driving by, neighbors walking their dogs, airplane flying overhead, the wind blowing the branches. Our front lawn became an entirely new frontier.
My wife and I sit there and explain things to them. Grounding ourselves to the present, rather than feeling worry about the future, and introducing them to the little moments that probably seem rather insignificant to anyone who didn’t have to worry about bringing their babies to target or to run errands with them in a pre-covid life. We narrate the happenings to them. “Oh do you see that? Look at that red truck.” “Do you hear that airplane? It’s flying in the sky above you.” In a time, when the indoors of many places are not safe to my unvaccinated for covid babies, the outdoors gives them a peek into the fact that there is more to life than their play room.
And it’s here that this city girl has gone back to dirt too. Outside, I’m not spraying the house or wiping every surface with Lysol after any masked vaccinated visitor enters. Outside, I’m encouraging my kids to feel the dirt, pick the grass, grab a leaf. There is so much that we have lost in this covid landscape and very few things we have gained. While there are not many things I would want to keep from our quarantined existence, I think that I’ll hang on to earth now for myself and my kids, even if it’s just in my little lawn.