Friday, June 20, 2014


The sun is hot in the Miami sky.  I suppose the sun is hot everywhere because, it's the sun... but my body seems to think that the sun is hotter in Miami than in any other place I've been.

Well... hold on... I do have one memory as a teenager when my family visited Las Vegas (go figure - remember how I'm moving there?).  We climbed out of the car on our arrival and I was immediately shocked at the intensity of the heat on my skin. As I stepped up onto the curb next to our parked car I lifted my head to make sure there were other humans walking around.  There were, and so I concluded that I would survive under those conditions.

But the heat in Miami is different.  It's not really a hot-on-your-skin type of heat so much as a heat that seeps inside of you and wraps your insides in its grip, a heat that makes your mind swim through it and your muscles work against it, a heat that dips into your core and elbows its way around and pushes out the comfort that used to reside there. And then, with the heat living in your insides, the moisture in the air surrounds you and holds the external heat close, wrapping you in a hot, soggy blanket. Don't worry, you can breathe through the blanket even though it seems that you can't.  Just look around... you'll see other humans doing it. If we're being completely honest, most of the time I actually love that blanket, but sometimes I'd like nothing more than to kick it off to one side of the bed.

Which brings us to the present moment. We are walking to the library, and as sweat drips from my forearm I recognize this moment as a Wish I Could Kick It Off one. I raise an eyebrow because I didn't even know my forearms could sweat so much to be dripping.  But dripping they are. Looking at me from the outside, you wouldn't really know I am feeling so uncomfortable.  There is still a bounce in my step and a smile across my face as I push the heavy stroller through the sand. It's beautiful here, you see.  And it's hard not to be happy when you're walking through a postcard. 

I can just make out the figures of my three older children, pedaling like mad through the sand. They're dripping, too. Of course, I can't see it, but I know it.  Carson will look like he's jumped into a swimming pool by the time I catch up to him - at some point I should probably apologize to him for passing along the DNA for my over-active sweat glands.  But not today.  Today he doesn't care.  Today he's focused on that bike of his, on pedaling as fast as he can to reach the swings at the park far enough before me to be able to play for a while before we continue on our journey to the library.  I have most of the library books with me in the bottom of the stroller, but I'm impressed that the kids can pedal so fast with the weight from the extra books hanging from the backpacks on their shoulders.

The podcast in my ears is interesting - it always is - because whether I'm in the mood for stimulating thoughts (TED radio hour), interesting stories (This American Life or The Moth), or humor (Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me), I have something to love.

I welcome the transition from sand to pavement once I get to the park, and passing the trees is one of my favorite things about the whole journey.  They offer little shade (and the shade offers little relief from the heat anyway), but the twisted trunks and waxy leaves are beautiful and interesting to look at.  As I come up to the play structure, I see the three children jumping from the swings and rushing to the slide to get in one last drop before joining me along the last leg of our journey.  I don't even have to slow down... they know the drill.  "Time to get moving!" I call over my shoulder.  Within a minute, they pedal past me again - this time keeping closer as we travel through the rest of the park and then along the paved beach path that leads us right to the library.

I take a few deep breaths of the clean beach air before stepping closer to the brick building.  I'm sure the brick was beautiful once.  The whole building must have been beautiful once.  But time has long since stolen that and now the smell of stale urine is almost overpowering as we get near.  Why the homeless people have chosen the parking lot as their place of relief when there is a beach, and several wide open spaces so near is a mystery to me.   

"I knew you were coming back!" the librarian said as we stepped, sweaty and dripping, into the air conditioned building.  I imagine entering into heaven might feel something like that someday.
"Yeah?" I questioned.
"Yep." She pointed to the rows of books along the top shelf of the holding area and continued, "Your shelf started filling up again." 

I don't like to spend much time in the library because it's small, and dark, and I have four children which for some reason makes the security guard uncomfortable enough to tail us.  I personally think he should tail the homeless people in the parking lot and invite them to come inside to use the actual toilet... but apparently he'd rather watch us.  So, in order to minimize time in the library, I've made a habit of putting all of our books on hold from the comfort of my own living room.  That way I can just step in, grab all 25 titles, check out, and be on my way.

I notice the mixture of good and bad in the air as we leave the library grounds.  It feels good to breathe air that is void of unpleasant smells, but I also have to accept the soggy blanket as it wraps itself around me once again.  The walk back is admittedly harder because we're tired from the mile and a half we've already come, but it's still wonderful because, postcard.  The children ride ahead again, this time loaded down with fresh books, to make it to the park before me and catch some time to read on the bench before I get there. I take my time on the way home. Breathing. Smelling. Listening. Feeling.

And as I finally approach their bench and see them lost in their stories, this is the moment that I find the most beautiful. 

Three sweaty kids sit reading in a park, surrounded by discarded backpacks and forgotten bikes. The scene shines a beam of light into a story of real adventure... one filled with bike rides through the sand, swinging through the air on a big, black swing, and being followed by a security guard in an old, run-down library.  But looking past that layer we see another one, one of borrowed adventure -  through the pages of a mystery, a comic, a fairy tale...

I hope they live lives that stories can be made from.  They will.  They are.  A life is a story.  But I hope they also make room for good books to enrich them, and that they always remember how they felt as they sat on a park bench, huffing from exercise, dripping in sweat, entirely absorbed in a story very different from the wonderful one they are living.


  1. We walked out of the airport yesterday and Jared watered making gasping noises and then he said "there's something wrong with the air! I can't breathe!". Russ and I were like " that's humidity, dude... "

    And yuck about the library parking lot. That's nasty...

    1. I truly will miss the humidity when we leave! Sounds like Jared doesn't miss it much. ;)

  2. Love this, so much. How do you keep track of 25 library books though? I need to figure out a system! Also- a woman I met in California told me the first time she visited the East Coast, it was to take her son to school in Florida and when she stepped off the plane, her first thought was, "This air is not compatible with human life!" I've always been kind of proud that I can handle it ;).

    1. It helps that our apartment is small! The books have only a few places to hides. :) And... we always have FIFTY books checked out (the maximum number) - they just have a limit that you can only put 25 on hold at a time. So we usually replenish half the books every week. It's a crazy system, seriously!