Joni Mitchell wrote that life is a circle game and that “we can’t return, we can only look behind …”
But Smartmom has found that you can return when you have an adorable 5-year-old niece who gives you ample opportunities to re-experience many of the pleasures of having a kindergartener without any of the headaches.
This comes at just the right time for Smartmom, who feels like an empty nester because her son is attending Gap Year University (OK, so his dorm room is his childhood bedroom) and her 12-year-old daughter has suddenly entered the “leave me alone” phase of adolescence.
Neither of them wants to spend much time with Smartmom.
But Ducky seems more than willing to be with Smartmom (or, more accurately, Smartaunt). In fact, once a week, Smartmom picks her up at PS 321, takes her to her after-school art class at Bernette Rudolph’s Third Street studio, and hangs out with her at the apartment until dinner.
Smartmom is thrilled to have a reason to enter the hallowed halls of PS 321 again without feeling like a stalker. Thanks to Ducky, she actually has a legitimate reason to be there.
Smartmom loves to enter Ducky’s kindergarten classroom, where she spots Ducky sitting in her coat and backpack waiting at her desk. When Ducky eyes Smartmom, she jumps up and runs to her.
Kiss, kiss. Hug. Hug. What joy!
Smartmom can still remember when Teen Spirit and OSFO were young enough to do that. Not anymore do they jump up and run to Smartmom when they see her coming.
Before going to Ducky’s art class, the two usually spend time in the playground, where Smartmom helps Ducky practice her routines on the parallel bars.
Later they go to the ices lady, who stands in front of the school.
Most of all, Smartmom appreciates that Ducky actually listens to what Smartmom has to say.
When Ducky hands Smartmom her backpack and asks her to hold it, Smartmom just tells her to hold it herself. And guess what? Ducky puts it back on.
When Smartmom tells her it’s time to leave the playground, Ducky listens. Sure, she’d like to spend more time running around, but she does as Smartmom says.
It’s been a long time since either of Smartmom’s children listened quite so attentively.
When they get to the art class, Smartmom can even pretend that Ducky is her daughter. Smartmom looks exactly like her identical twin sister Diaper Diva anyway.
In these ways and more, Smartmom’s Tuesdays with Ducky have been a win-win.
Halloween this year was also a special day to be with Ducky. Smartmom was feeling a tad blue because she knew that OSFO had plans with her friends that night and wouldn’t be trick-or-treating or going to the parade with Smartmom. And Teen Spirit had tickets to see Weezer at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan.
On Halloween morning, Smartmom, Diaper Diva and Ducky, who was dressed as a very elegant Lady Bug, walked to the Farmers Market at Grand Army Plaza, where there was a jug band and a puppeteer entertaining children with a Humpty Dumpty puppet.
The trio continued into Prospect Park where they waited on an incredibly long line to do the Spook Walk.
At first, the three of them enjoyed seeing all the witches, ghouls and vampires that were splayed around the woodsy area of the park.
But then Ducky got really scared. And the vampire who popped out of a cardboard coffin really freaked Smartmom out, too. Luckily there was a good fairy standing on the sidelines, who was quite adept at comforting the children.
“Would you like to hug this teddy bear,” she asked Ducky sweetly.
“Are you a psychologist?” Smartmom asked the good fairy later.
“No, I’m a high school student,”
“You’re very good at this,” Smartmom told her.
Ducky told Smartmom that she never wanted do the Spook Walk ever again. And Smartmom couldn’t blame her. They hurried out of the Spook Walk area and Ducky felt much better when they were back on the Park Drive heading for home.
When Smartmom got home she reflected on her Halloween with Ducky and the circle game. Her own children were “going round and round on the carousel of time.” They were too old for Halloween the way it used to be and were now leading more independent lives.
This was hard to face. It made Smartmom feel old and sad because she has great memories of all the Halloweens they’d spent together. Visions of Teen Spirit as Quisp, Tin Tin and a “boy in a rainstorm” flashed before her eyes as did images of OSFO dressed as just about every Disney princess you can imagine.
That’s why Smartmom was so grateful to Ducky. It was fun to be her aunt this Halloween, especially at this stage when her own children seem to be moving on.
Next weekend, she’s going to take Ducky to the Prospect Park Carousel so they can watch “the painted ponies go up and down.”
Ducky is going to love it.