At Vienne's Park, the one up a hill behind the Albertsons on Barrows up, Vienne and I invented a game called Apple Bomb on her last Sunday. Of the many fond memories created at this park, this is one of my favorite. I ran by here the other day and realized that rather than write pages about how I'm doing after 2 years of loss, I'd rather just share Apple Bomb.
First, find an apple tree that is dropping apples for which you won't get chased for picking up. It will be beneficial if this apple tree is located in a park that is not overly attended and has a relatively large grassy area. It will be even better if this grassy area is somewhat firm ground, soft and squishy grass will present challenges.
Now grab a fallen apple, one that allows a firm grip but will not squish in your hand.
Line up with your co-game player.
On the count of three (the youngest person has to count to three and shout Gooooo!) you throw the apple as high as you can, adding some little distance to the arc.
At this stage you have a decision on which way to play. Vienne preferred to wait for the apple to land before chasing it down. More adventurous players can run as soon as the apple is thrown however this introduces the caveat that all players understand the rules of 'red light, green light' as they may be required to stop suddenly depending on where the apple seems to be landing. The oldest person is responsible for shouting 'red light!' if runners and falling apples appear to be on imminent collision. An apple, even a soft one, really hurts when falling a any distance and landing on ones head.
Now, presumably, the apple has landed and (hopefully) exploded.
It is time to engage in the science and learning portion of this game.
The first player to the apple has to find something interesting to observe and point out.
The second player must find something as well but it can't be anything mentioned during any previous throws of the games session.
Be creative, your observation can be as varied as noticing the odd shape of one particular apple chunk, like finding shapes in clouds. In most of the games Vienne and I played outside, I tried to teach her how to observe the world around her. By watching, by wondering, by engaging; a kid will never be bored.
If there are still big chunks of the apple that have exploding potential, feel free to continue throwing until said potential has evaporated.
Then go get another apple and continue the cycle until the throwers arm is about to fall off.
Vienne and I played this for at least an hour that Sunday morning when we should have been at church but it was just too nice a morning. I can still hear her voice shouting, "Gooooooo", my signal to throw. She would be standing in a runners start pose and as soon as the apple landed her little legs would churn the grass.
I remember feeling a little bad about the mess we made but I taught Vienne about how birds would come eat and spread apple seeds all over our neighborhood for new apple trees to grow . . . . so all good stuff.
I think we even brought Jenny & Ivy back that afternoon for a few more throws. I naturally overdid it and could barely move my shoulder the next day.
By the way, this is the park we celebrated Vienne's 5th birthday. We planted a hydrangea at the back of the park between two pines for her and since have thought that city park folk had torn it up since it 'didn't belong'. Anyway, it's back. Just a few little branches and leaves a couple inches over the bark but it's there. It's so tempting to read into stuff like that, to over spiritualize or deliver some sort of homily about perseverance, Truth is I'm just glad it's there. Just being there is enough. I wish Vienne was just here.
What I will say about this 2 year anniversary of sadness is that grief is the second most life changing emotion I think is out there, preceded only by love. In the movie The Avengers, the characters wonder and doubt how the Hulk has learned to control his anger….they want to know his secret to hiding it. Towards the end of the movie you learn he controls it by always being angry. Here's the clip just because:
And that's what grief is like to me; learning to live with the dichotomy of having sorrow while still being a loving husband, an engaged father, a reliable friend and pleasant co-worker. That's our secret…we're just always sad.