My friend Tom Novak once said that if he were in charge of the universe, he would make the first perfect spring day a holiday for everyone.
No school. No work. No obligations. No heavy lifting. Just wake up, head outside, sit on a park bench, and be. A bell would ring and it would be outdoor recess for everyone.
It’s a nice thought. Sit. Daydream. Smell the air. Feel the warmth of the sun.
But it isn’t doable, and not because “perfect’’ means different things to different people. (Some of us actually think chilly is perfect.)
The bigger and truer reason chilling out isn’t doable is because even if a bell rang and some mayor or governor went on TV and ordered us to stop and relax, we couldn’t, because it is impossible to stop and relax, to put down what we are doing, and walk outside and do nothing.
We are adults with obligations and appointments and deadlines and commitments and places to go and things to do, and even if you take away all of these things, even if we put them on hold for a day, we still can’t stop because the world doesn’t stop.
People need us. Kids get earaches and have to go to the doctor on the nicest of spring days, someone gets stung by a bee, someone needs a shirt ironed, there are lunches to pack, forms to fill out, rides to be given. Something. Some things. So many things.
The truth is there is no outdoor recess for adults, and even an act of Congress couldn’t change this.
Grown-ups with mortgages and car payments and old parents and young kids cannot check out for a day just because the sun is shining and birds are singing and the trees are yellow and purple and pink, no matter what the self-help books say.
Outdoor recess is the purview of kids. They chill. They seize every moment. And the littlest kids do it best.
Luke, my grandson, just turned 3. He’s visiting from New York, where he lives in an apartment, where what he sees from his windows are other apartments and a concrete sidewalk and a few thin trees.
It’s 6 a.m. when he wakes up the first day he is here and the sun is shining and it’s a beautiful spring morning and he races to the sliding glass door and asks to go outside.
“I want to go in the playground,’’ he says, over and over, our backyard a playground to him because there’s a swing set and a playhouse and grass.
Luke is in his pajamas. He’s wearing slippers, not shoes. His teeth aren’t brushed, his hair isn’t combed. He hasn’t had breakfast yet.
All this doesn’t matter. “I want to go in the playground,’’ he repeats.
It’s outdoor recess time.
His sister, Megan, is almost 5. She’s more tentative. The swing set beckons, but after breakfast, she says. And after she changes into her clothes.
Jump ahead four years. A 9-year-old is getting ready for school. There’s a swing set in her backyard, too, but she doesn’t have time to play.
She eats breakfast, practices her spelling words, puts on a skirt and blouse, looks in a mirror, then puts on a different skirt.
There’s a bench in her backyard, too, and a hammock and flowering trees. It’s a beautiful spring day that shouts, “Hey! Turn around. Pay attention to me.’’
But she is 9 and thinking about getting to school on time and what shoes she should wear to her school concert that afternoon as she grabs her backpack and races to the car.