Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14: Child's play

My nieces, age 2-1/2 and 5-1/2, are visiting this weekend, and today was "Niece Day" for me. I'm not quite up to taking on both of them together for the entire day, so I spent the first half with the younger child, Nola. Our time together, the first she's ever spent completely alone with me, included such simple pleasures as getting purple unicorn sugar cookies for a snack and hiking up Beech Hill. On the way up we discussed blueberries, hurricanes, Alvin and the Chipmunks, building sand castles, and other important matters, pausing often to "rest"--i.e. sit in the trail side grass and toss pebbles at things. She filled her pocket with random bits of gravel she deemed "treasure." During one of our rest stops, a harrier flew over our heads, close enough that even Nola could appreciate it. She also appreciated Beech Nut, the stone hut at the summit that my sisters and I were taken to by our mother starting about when we were Nola's age. Nola imagined the stone-walled rooms inside as good places for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to live. Then I gave her a piggy-back ride back down the hill.

After a good healthy lunch of pizza and another cookie, I dropped off Nola and picked up the older niece, Fiona. It was Fiona's idea to go fishing with Uncle Paul so she could watch him and be his fishing helper. So we clambered down to the river and Paul's favorite fishing spot, where he cast a line without much hope because the water level's so low right now. But, surprisingly, he hooked a fish in no time, and Fiona reeled it in--a small, pretty brook trout; her first fish! As this was going on, an osprey flew overhead and perched nearby, perhaps hoping that it could get it on the action after we released the trout. Paul let Fiona pick out the next fly, and though he was skeptical of her choice, she was quickly reeling in her second fish, a little smallmouth bass. Already her lifetime fishing record tops mine.

Later, after more adventures at home and an early dinner at the Waterfront (the usual for Fiona: plain pasta, hot fudge sundae), we walked along the Harbor Park sea wall and were thrilled to see a river otter hanging out in the harbor. Several times it poked its head out of the water to look right at us. It was Fiona's first otter, an event made even more significant by the fact that her last name is van Otterloo, so the family has a strong affinity for otters.

While I'm thoroughly exhausted now, I'm grateful for this day of many small excitements made even better by their being shared with my two favorite little girls.

Young or old, we all
appreciate hawks, otter,
spring's first-caught brookie.

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