I watch the back of their heads getting smaller as they race down the sidewalk. Older brother yells at younger brother to stop at driveways, run faster, "race me". Littlest brother shrieks and tries to keep up. His little legs carry him as fast as a marshmallow on toothpicks can go. I find myself holding my breath as he narrowly recovers from innumerable close calls.
We make it to the park. It's sunny and bright. The jasmine is blooming and yellow roses line the tot park fence. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. Only a few close friends and family get what that means to me now: there's nowhere else I'd rather be.
We play for three and a half hours. Several groups of friends come in and out. The boys pull innocent babies and brave toddlers into their Club House World. I sit and talk with friends, occasionally jumping up to swipe sand out of my eighteen months old's mouth or offer a snack to the big kids. We leave two behind and take a potty break, return and wipe faces, and continue the conversation. It's a dance. Five and a half years ago this dance felt unnatural, forced, and lonely. Today it feels full and fleeting. The only thing that's really changed is me.