“Daddy! Daddy! DADDY!!” my 5-year-old exclaims from his perch in the back seat of our car.
“Yes, bud. What?” I finally reply. We are in the middle of a one-sided conversation about our impromptu trip to the fruit and vegetable stand and I am a little annoyed I have to respond since I have been listening to an uninterrupted monologue for several minutes.
“Is it going to be beautiful there?”
This unexpected question cuts through the fog. I realize I have moved inside my own head during our short drive. I do this a lot. When you struggle with depression and you are a parent, some days the psychic gap between you and your children, who are so filled with wonder it can be physically exhausting, can seem as big as the Grand Canyon.
“No,” I respond. “Not beautiful, really. Just a building with lots of fruits and vegetables in it.”
As we drive through my home town where we are visiting my parents for the day, my son’s excitement about the mundane outing bubbles to a rolling boil. His energy is incongruous with the surroundings, which are so familiar to me and exhausted in the oppressive Florida summer. We snake along the quiet road past modest houses and abandoned supermarkets with overgrown parking lots. We pass by a golf course that has been closed for years, its once neat and useful Bermuda grass has given way to snarls of weeds and bushes turned native by the relentless subtropical rains that pelt down every afternoon.
I remember taking golf lessons there as a kid and how the place seemed so vast and imposing. When we turned ten years old and were finally allowed to roam the course with our golf bags in tow, alone, without adults, on endless summer afternoons, waiting out thunderstorms under makeshift canopies, sweat dripping from under our worn baseball caps, how scary and exhilarating that felt! I quickly learned on those manicured greens both the appeal and gravity of freedom. But now, driving by the same place some twenty-five years later with kids of my own in the backseat, the place just looks sad and empty.
We pull into the parking lot of the open-air vegetable stand with salmon colored pillars. The sign out front with tilted letters reads “Specials: peaches and watermelon!” Vapors from the oil stains on the cement waft into the humid air as we pile out of our car. We circle through the shop a couple times as the boys dart around from bin to bin, asking what each fruit or vegetable is and which ones they can get. The heat and humidity is stifling and the dank air in the store reeks of musty produce. An old lady shuffles along, gathering up vegetables and fruits and placing them in her cart. Her facial expression unchanged as the boys maneuver around her, hustling to pick out peaches and plums, chattering away the whole time.
Eventually, we complete our shopping. As we retrace our path back to my parents’ house, the car is unusually quiet.
“So, what did you think?” I ask, finally.
“Daddy, it was beautiful there. You said it wouldn’t be, but it was. All those colors. All those different fruits. It was beautiful!”
Perspective. Perspective. Perspective.