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Friday, May 15, 2015

The perfect Saturday afternoon

Saturday morning started out well.  It started after seven, with no children waking me up, only cheerful morning sunshine.  After cinnamon rolls and scrambled eggs for breakfast, Brandon and I cleaned the car with Joseph and Edwin 'helping.'  Joseph helped by not getting in the way, busily driving us all to Tajikistan.  I'm not sure where he starts his journeys from these days, but every single one ends in Tajikistan.

My housekeeper came around eleven to take the girls to a relative's wedding party.  The communication between us is minimal, so I'm never quite sure what is going on when she takes my children to various places.  All I know is that she seems happy to take them along, and the children are having a fantastic opportunity for cultural immersion.  Maybe they'll end up less culturally uninterested than their mother.

After the car was cleaned and the smaller children put to bed for naps, I put myself to bed.  There are few things more luxurious than a Saturday afternoon nap.  I spend some time browsing Facebook, reading all of the links I never have time for, before drifting off to sleep without any commitments or alarms to wake me.

The girls returned in the early afternoon, full of tales about fancy dresses and headpieces with two-foot long feathers on top.  Everyone had treated them nicely and the food was delicious too.  It was so much fun, and how fancy those dresses were!

The afternoon was pleasant and sunny, so Brandon and I decided to have a picnic dinner in the botanical gardens.  I love living in a society that takes picnic-ing very seriously.  Grass is not sacred here, and the whole garden is free to anyone with a blanket and something to snack on.  After Cairo and Baku, where nobody would walk on the grass any sooner than they would walk on the flowers, it's nice to be with reasonable people again.

I used to view picnics as an opportunity to make all of the tasty picnic foods that I never eat - deviled eggs, hummus, baba ghanoush, fruit salad, cookies, and whatever tasty things take to long for normal meals - and would spend all day cooking for a picnic.  So we never had picnics.  Who wants to have a picnic when it takes days to plan it?  Now I pride myself on the speed I can put together a picnic.  After all, who wants to spend all day cooking when you can buy things that someone else already cooked?

Our corner grocery store has a man who sells chickens roasting in the rotisserie oven behind his cracked plastic chair.  Brandon hands him 25 somoni (four dollars) and he grabs a chicken off its spit, bags it up, and hands it back to Brandon.  I buy hot bread from the grocery store behind the rotisserie oven for 1 somoni a round, and with the addition of cucumber and tomato salad, we have dinner.  It may not be gourmet and it isn't exactly nutritionally balanced, but it's dinner that takes me ten minutes.

So after loading a blanket, dinnerware, water, and the children into our red double baby jogger, we stopped to exchange money for dinner before making our way to the botanical gardens.  The evening was pleasant, in the upper seventies, and half of Dushanbe was out to enjoy the weather.  We got many smiles, several thumbs up (I love living in countries where five children is something commendable instead of embarrassing), and no requests for pictures.  Tajiks are friendly, but usually not intrusive.  I love Tajiks.

We found our own spot of grass, laid out the blanket, and enjoyed the supreme pleasure of dining in the gently fading air of a late spring day.  Horse carriages, filled with locals out for a ride in the pleasant evening, clopped by, and children played on the exercise equipment scattered through the gardens.  Parents sat and chatted as their children played.  Everyone enjoyed spring and the prospect of no winter for months to come.

Only a few cups of soda were spilled before the children finished and ran off to play themselves.  I love living in a place where everyone watches out for each other and all children are safe because everyone cares about them.  Brandon and I finished picking the chicken carcass clean and fed Eleanor, banned to the stroller after spilling soda over herself, her blanket, and the picnic blanket, before packing up the things.  We gathered the children and strolled through the garden as twilight set in.  The grass was vividly green and spikes of snapdragons thrust pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges into the gathering dusk.  We stopped to visit the peacocks and I marveled, as always, that they are able to walk with such long, extravagant tails.

On our walk home we stopped to watch as several men finished felling the last twenty feet of a tree that had died.  As the stump crashed to the ground, we all clapped and laughed to see it bounce off another tree and finally come down after so much chopping and pulling.  The men came to the fence and shook hands as everyone smiled, full of Saturday evening bonhomie.  As Brandon and I strolled, talking of nothing, Kathleen and Edwin ran along the mostly empty sidewalk, full of Saturday evening air.

Our last stop was at one of the ubiquitous soft-serve machines that crop up like mushrooms when warm weather sets in.  I like a culture that values their summer evening treats.  When we saw sugar cones in the vendor's plastic bin, Brandon splurged and spent double - a little less than two dollars - on all six of our cones.  We strolled through the quiet neighborhood streets as the ice cream dripped down Joseph's hand, his tongue unable to keep up with the weather.  I kindly made up the difference for him.  When we got home, everyone took to the swings or the jungle gym to savor just a few more minutes of being together in the perfect evening air.  I pushed Joseph high as I could make him go while he laughed in wild delight.  "Higher, Mom!  Higher!!  Push me higher!!!" he shouted over and over again.  Kathleen showed off her upside down hanging skills as Edwin pushed Sophia in her swing.  Eleanor watched it all, taking in these people who would always have been a part of her life.

Eventually everyone went to bed, full of chicken and bread and ice cream and soft evening air.  "Thank you," Kathleen told me, as she kissed me goodnight, "that was the best Saturday, ever."


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