Last year, on an unseasonably warm Veterans Day, we went with our friend Priscilla and her kids to the Storm King Sculpture Park. Priscilla’s two children are the same age as ours: Marcus is six months older than Delphinium and Arielle is a month older than Magnolia. Storm King is a favorite place of our family, full of interesting sculptures to explore and hills and fields for toddling and running, and we were excited to introduce our friends to it and to have our kids enjoy it.
From the start, the kids took full advantage. Marcus and Delphinium ran ahead, exploring paths and enjoying the open space. Arielle and Magnolia toddled behind, eager to try to catch up with the big kids and smiling at their antics.
We stopped at a sculpture, Gazebo for Two Anarchists, which you could enter and walk through. It had limited interest for the older kids, who sped through and kept going. But it was a great enclosed space for Magnolia, who mounted the steps, climbed up onto a bench and lowered herself down, toddled from one side to the other, and did the same thing over again. She loved the challenge of it, mastering the space and making it her own. It was just right for her, and she could have stayed and kept at it for hours if we didn’t have to keep up with the older kids.
After another stretch of running/toddling, we came upon a small hillside covered with fallen leaves. There, we settled in for an hour of leaf play. Marcus, Delphinium, and I worked on making huge piles of leaves at the bottom of the hill for them to run and jump into, while Arielle, Magnolia, and Priscilla spent their time seated in piles of leaves, throwing leaves in the air, and grinning at it all (and Kendra documented the fun with her camera). When the pile at the bottom of the hill was large enough, the big kids and little kids took turns in it, then Marcus and Delphinium hid in the pile and Arielle and Magnolia gleefully tried to uncover them. Magnolia spent so much of the time pleased as could be with herself, just sitting in and working with the mess of leaves and smiling joyfully.
More ups and downs led us to a sculpture in various parts, that had many places to climb and explore. Marcus and Delphinium challenged themselves with more difficult crossings, while Magnolia and Arielle found places to climb up and down, both cautiously intrepid, with our support.
With admiration for all the work the little ones had done, we stopped to picnic on some food and take a break. Magnolia devoured her food as always, feasting on fruit, vegetables, crackers, and squeezable packets. It felt like it had been a successful day, and we were thinking about winding it down. But Delphinium felt strongly about going to see Three Legged Buddha, one of her favorite pieces. I offered to run over there with Delphinium and Marcus, but we decided to all go that way. Magnolia was a bit needier now, and wanted to be carried much of the way, so I picked her up and ran with her, bouncing about and laughing as we went.
After Delphinium showed Marcus the sculpture and they conjectured about the sealed doors they discovered hidden on the legs, we started the long trek across the fields back to our cars. Magnolia wanted to be carried some of the time, but spent a lot of the way walking alongside Arielle. As Priscilla and I looked on, they had what was Magnolia’s first real conversation, a series of words and responses between them that seemed like a preview of so many big kid conversations to come.
The sun continued to shine as we changed Magnolia’s diaper, took Delphinium to the bathroom, and thanked our friends for such a wonderful day together. As both kids fell asleep in the backseat just minutes into the drive, Kendra and I talked about how perfect the day had been: Peers for both kids and a friend for us, tons of room for toddling and running, a mix of wildly running around and exploring the sculptures, a gorgeous day, and a hillside full of leaves that seemed like it was made just for our families. We basked in the success of it, and looked forward to the our next visit and all the things that Magnolia and Delphinium would be able to do then.