All of the Peaches went to Long Hunter State Park for some play time today. We’ve been going stir crazy from being in the house so much while the girls have been sick. The family area at Long Hunter has a giant play wooden play set that looks like a ship, with masts and a steering wheel and ladders and slides but no plank. At the bottom of the slides, which come off of each end of the ship in the same direction, there is sand.
It was cooler and windier outside than it was when Jessica and I promised Sofia some play time, so we made sure that she and Nadia had hats on that covered their ears. Sofia picked a dandelion from our front yard before we left, because she thought we were taking her to the neighborhood playground where she met five-year-old Taia a few days ago, and she wanted to have something pretty to give to her new friend.
Sofia doesn’t really have any friends other than Nadia and her cousin Kate, who is six.
So, all of the Peaches and the flower and a diaper bag and extra coats and hats and two coffees and cake on a stick all went to the park. Nadia fell asleep before we got there, and stayed in the van with Jessica while I chased Sofia around trying to get pictures. Sofia loved the ship. We played pirates, and Captain Sofia told Captain Daddy where to sail the boat. Usually we sailed to the slides, which were attached to the boat, so it wasn’t very far to go.
After a while, a very experienced van pulled into the parking lot and a little girl a bit smaller than Sofia got out of it and came walking over. Not far behind her was a man who very much matched the van. He wore dark clothes and sunglasses with a big belt buckle and one earring. His hair was long and almost as dark as his clothes, except for quite a few white streaks that probably have very specific stories that they are results of. Once we started speaking, I thought his accent made him Midwestern. Then I put everything together and realized that he is Native American. He said that he had only been in Nashville for a week, that he had lived here sixteen or so years ago, and that he had come down from Colorado. We spoke while the little girl explored.
“What made you come down?”
“Oh! Does she remember you?”
“No. This is our first time actually meeting.”
The little girl approached the swings slowly, not sure if she was allowed to try them.
“How long will you be down here?”
“I’m not sure. She’s my primary objective right now. It could be a while.”
The little girl bent forward over a swing and rode it on her belly.
“Hey! You found a way to swing,” exclaimed the man.
The girl stood up and backed away from the swings. The man looked disappointed.
“It’s okay buddy. I wasn’t telling you to leave them.”
“She may have though you said, ‘Away from the swings,’” I said.
He was very pleasant and a bit amused to find himself on a giant wooden playground boat. His smile was persistent. He told me the little girl’s name was Cadence, and that she was three years old.
I reminded Sofia that she had a flower in the van to give to a friend. Sofia froze for a second, and then bolted to the van. Cadence looked very unsure of the strange behavior. Sofia came running over with the flower, shouting, “FLOWER FOR NEW FRIIIIIIIEEND!” She gave Cadence the flower, smiled, and then ran off to the ship.
Cadence had on dark clothes, save for a pink tutu over her pants, and pink shoes with huge eyes on them that took me a moment to place.
“Hey! I like your shoes. Sofia! Come look at her shoes!”
The man said, “Yeah, apparently everyone knows who that is. Feefoo or something.”
“Foofa! From Yo Gabba Gabba. Sofia loves that show. Sofia is gonna love your shoes, Cadence.”
Cadence’s expression was as dark as the man’s hair. I noticed some colors on her cheeks, and thought they were from crayons or markers.
“Of course her shoes are on the wrong feet,” laughed the man. He didn’t bother fixing them.
Sofia couldn’t be bothered to look at the shoes. She just wanted Cadence to leave the swings and sail away with her.
The man told me that Cadence didn’t have any friends her age, just like Sofia, but that she did have two older brothers.
“Little girls are special, though,” the man said, as he watched a bemused Cadence decide whether Sofia was okay to play with. “She’s three, and smaller than yours! Her mother, my daughter, was like that, though. And so was her mother.”
Jessica got out of the van with a refreshed Nadia and came over. Jessica introduced herself to the man, who said his name was Steve. I hadn’t realized up to that point that we hadn’t said our names. I do that a lot.
Steve was very amused by Nadia, who kept losing shoes and mittens, and looked more like a puppet than a baby sitting in all her warm clothes and hat that kept falling over her eyes.
Jessica took over chasing Sofia around in order to try for more pictures. I hung out on deck with Steve and Nadia. Steve said that they were staying in a trailer park close by, and that he hadn’t even unpacked yet.
Cadence climbed up a ladder on the side of the ship, using only one hand. She was holding on to the flower tightly with the other hand.
Jessica walked around with the girls, and Cadence seemed much more comfortable. Jessica had to explain to Cadence that if she put the flower down somewhere safe, she would be able to climb much more easily.
Nadia started to get cranky just as Cadence started playing with Sofia more comfortably. They were chatting and throwing sand into the wind, catching it on their shirts when it blew back. Preschool kids don’t really think about the direction of wind as something they can work with or against. It’s just there and hits them from any direction it wants, whenever it wants, and they don’t bother to try and understand it. Jessica told Sofia that it was almost time to go, and that she could slide two more times, and that she should tell her friend goodbye.
Sofia ran over to Cadence and gave her a hug. Cadence looked very confused.
“That girl’s been beaten,” Jessica said after we were in the van.
“Why do you say that?” I thought Jessica came to her conclusion from Cadence’s behavior.
“Her face. Did you not see the bruises?”
“Oh. Yeah. I thought it was just crayon or something that hadn’t been wiped off.”
“No. The marks were round, and definitely had an original impact mark, an abrasion.”
Steve hadn’t mentioned Cadence’s daddy at all.
I looked at Steve’s van as we pulled out of the lot. It was even more distinct from the back, with Indian bumper stickers. We passed a trailer park on the way home that may have been Cadence and Cadence’s mommy’s and now Steve’s. I could pick that van out at night, for sure, and Sofia needs friends.
And Cadence needs friends.