My wife has been dropping a small fortune on garden ornaments in the shapes of animals, fairies and the like for a reason: The younger neighborhood children are nuts about them.
She has created a veritable civilization of ceramic beings that are scattered throughout a lovely curbside garden she maintains. Tots with their parents often traverse the adjacent sidewalk outside our house, and the kids never fail to pause and excitedly examine what to them are wondrous, magical toys.
They’ll pick up the items, find new positions or groupings for them, place them onto a little metal swing and other pieces of miniature furniture, and generally go out of their minds with fun. It’s adorable.
Setting up something like this would never occur to me. I’m not much of a gardener, and I’m much less patient with kids.
But my wife lives at the intersection of creativity and generosity by way of empathy. She’s always doing nice things for the children in our neighborhood, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Groups of older kids in the summer routinely descend on our house for treats, and my wife dispenses whatever is on hand – cookies, ice cream, hot chocolate, bananas or, on super-hot days, ice water. Sometimes she will dispatch me for pizza. Yesterday, she bought all the kids ice-cream-truck popsicles.
The other day, she took a bunch of the kiddos to fly kites in the park just to our west.
She has made a tradition of bringing along two neighbor girls to the pool parties that friends of ours throw on summer Fridays.
Board games with the girls on the front porch are another summer tradition.
So are leisurely summer strolls to our local ice-cream place:
A couple of winters ago, my wife created brightly colored ice boulders by mixing food coloring into water, pouring the liquid into balloons, freezing these, and then peeling away the rubber to reveal the orbs (which looked a bit like alien pods). Some of these aqarocks had tiny trinkets suspended in the translucent ice.
Kids passing by were irresistibly drawn to the ice rocks, but usually did not linger because of the cold.
It’s different with the ceramic toys amid glorious summer-like weather, which means parents sometimes have to pry their little ones away from our boulevard garden.
Rarely, some of the ornaments have become damaged or gone missing, but my wife doesn’t care.
She is continually adding to the collection, too, with a nod to diversity by ensuring the toy people have a range of skin colors. This is important to my partner, a Latina, in an inner-city neighborhood with kids of different races, ethnicities and religions.
She delights in speaking Spanish with one cute African American kid who is not of Latino descent but is amazingly fluent in español because he attends Adams Spanish Immersion School.
You can imagine why I’m eternally smitten with the woman who has been my mate for more than a quarter century. If you’ll pardon a cliché, she is a beautiful person inside and out. It’s no wonder kids adore her.