My feet sink into the garden muck. The rain has been coming and coming this summer. The humid Minnesota afternoon sun beats down on me, true to the eighty degrees the thermometer red line shows. I look over the short white garden fence and Matt and Ben are playing over at the playset in the other corner of the yard while I conquer the weeds in my swampy garden. I can only wrench them out if using all my back muscles, their roots clenched into the dirt like strong green and brown wire hands. I look over at the kids again, they are digging in the sand, making obstacle courses for their metal cars. I chuck the weeds over the fence even though the city hates it and they land on the ground with a heaviness of wet dirt and healthy stems. The dogs come into the garden and sink their paws into the black wet dirt, making white and brown paws black instead. They lift their noses in the wind, sniffing, and then stroll about to eat the leaves off the sunflowers. They gnaw on long pointed grass blades that sway in the wind like wimpy swords. I glance again at the kids playing and they are busy chunks of color speeding around the sand with yellow shovels and purple rakes. I weed out a quarter of the garden and head over to the hose to rinse off myself and the garden tools. My rubber garden clogs are thick with mud sludge inside and out. I think I would have been better off being barefoot.
Ben runs over to me and he is smiling. He is smiling bright like the three-year old in summer sunshine that he is. I see his red cherry popsicle spill from earlier all down the front of his yellow t-ball shirt.
“Hi Mommy!” he says. He is completely soaked in brownish drips from head to toe, clothes, face, hair and all. “Guess what I did?”
“Ben, why are you all wet? Is it all sweat?” I ask as sweat drips off my own forehead, I’m thinking that can’t be all sweat, plus its’s brownish.
Ben says, “I went in the puddle.”
I look around and there is all grass everywhere, and no puddle anywhere in the back yard as far as I can see. “What puddle, Ben? I don’t see a puddle anywhere.” I pause. “Honey, did you lay down in the puddle?”
He points his dirty finger towards the fence. “It’s over there,” he says, his face round with innocence. Joy just radiates out of him, he gets happy with his whole body in his usual happy jig. He sticks his hands up in the air, fingers stretched all up and out as if bursting with energy out the tips. He jumps and giggles. “I did it!” he says.
“Show me, will you please?” I ask. I follow him as he stomps through the yard, the grass is a healthy dark green and squishy like too skinny overcooked beans. Near the fence in the low part of the yard, there is about a four-inch deep mini rainwater puddle about as wide as Ben’s arm span next to the playset, tinted brown and swamp scented.
I can’t imagine how he has gotten completely all wet. Even the hair on the top and back of his head is wet. “Did you trip and fall in it?” I ask.
“Oh no, Mommy.” He smiles so much bigger than I can.
Matt calls to Ben, “Ben, come help me make the sand walls.” Matt is a mess too, sand soaked from the strands of his blond hair down to the crooks of his bare boy toes. A sand monster with sand grains peppering his cheeks amongst his light freckles.
“Ok,” says Ben. He starts to run off towards Matt. If Matt were shorter, he and Ben would look just like twins.
“Wait, Ben, how did you get all wet like this? Did you lay down in the puddle?” I ask.
“No,” he says. He points to the puddle again. He gets the biggest smile on his face and says, “I did somersault in the puddle. Yeah, somersault!” He shakes his bent arms back and forth quickly as he says it. He keeps smiling and does the little jump he does when he’s happy. “I learned to do a somersault!” The dirt and water on his face drying in the sun in wiggly lines as if he painted worms on his cheeks with his dirty little fingertips. I see his green frog rain boots half submerged and tipped sideways on the edge of our new mini swamp.
“Good job! You did it!” I smile and tell him with pride.
I sit on the wood bench and watch them play. Little boys so busy with their projects and finishing up their plans until another plan grows bigger for them and they abandon it for the next. I admire their carefree, innocent joy. I sit and feel the slight breeze dry the sweat on face and neck, and I smile watching my children play. I can’t help but admire Ben’s accomplishment even though he accomplished it in dirty, swampy rainwater. I let him keep playing all swamp water soaked, he is so proud and he had been trying for weeks to perfect his somersault. Who was I to tarnish it by getting mad that he chose such a dirty and wet spot to do it in. My only regret is I didn’t get to see him do his first perfect somersault, but at least I got to celebrate it with him.