Thursday, February 18, 2010


I told Jay and Katherine that I was going to stroll James up the hill to the Public Park, but I just didn’t have the energy. My family sometimes wears me out. They were all around for Valentine’s weekend.

It was great, but I was tired. So we wandered over toward the main square in Culver City instead, where James might find an ice cream, and his grandmother might find lunch without having to fix it.

For some reason, there is a weird dancing lion in the center of the square, surrounded by randomly erupting geysers of water.

It was…at last…a warm, pretty L.A. day, so we were not disturbed by the lack of seating at Chipotle.

I sat on a bench in the square to consume my burrito bowl, while James stared at the big boys who flirted with the fountain. They were street-wise and savvy, and knew how to jump out of the way just before an eruption was about to occur.

I was glad that James was able to get a little dose of vitamin D from the recently-elusive sun. I glanced down at my burrito bag for a second to get settled. When I looked up, James had his little foot poised above the wet pavement. “You better not get wet, James,” I warned.

(If there’s a mud puddle anywhere in the county, that boy will find it and jump in it.)

I searched for utensils. When I glanced back up, James was getting a little spray.

“I told you not to get wet, James. Come back over here and finish your ice cream.”

He must not have heard me.

Suddenly, the playful 2-foot mini-sprays grew into Yellowstone Park eruptions.

The older boys jumped back just in the nick of time; James got soaked.

He looked back at me, astonished.

And died laughing.

I could sense the eyes of on-lookers waiting to see what my reaction would be.

I died laughing, too.

Then it turned into a free-for-all, with James as the ring-leader. The two older boys, who had stayed scrupulously dry before, saw how much fun James was having getting wet. They grew more and more daring. When they saw how James was reveling in the experience with complete abandon, it emboldened them to take greater risks. Before long, everyone was soaked.

The passers-by were astonished. I wish there had been hidden cameras somewhere. Their looks said, “Where are this child’s parents? Who is in charge here???”

The older boys were accompanied solely by their father, who didn’t know exactly how to respond to the situation. He made vague threats and admonitions, but it was obviously that he wasn’t terribly upset.

Then, their mother strolled up with a baby.

She didn’t think the scene was as funny as I did. She started yelling at the kids to get out of the water.

But they kept getting wetter and wetter.

And I just couldn’t stop laughing.



Like a lunatic.

Like someone who was completely losing it.

Maybe I was, but it felt


I gave James permission to get absolutely soaking wet in the middle of downtown Culver City without a change of clothes or a dry diaper. I gave him permission to get the only shoes that survived the move…suede ones at that…totally, soddenly saturated. Eventually, I gave him permission to take his clothes off in a public place and just DANCE in the water. Slip-sliding away in the Land of Oz.

Because, or course, the weird lion was supposed to be the Cowardly one from the Wizard. But no longer cowardly.

Other little boys passing by were drawn like moths to the light.

One group consisted of three brothers with their three nannies. One nanny per boy. (Two were infant twins.) I thought, There’s no way those nannies are going to let Little Lord Fauntleroy get wet.

A beautiful little redhead, he lingered on the outskirts looking wistfully at the wild boys running and sliding and laughing. My heart went out to him.

A couple came strolling by with their 2 or 3-year–old boy. They watched from the sidelines for quite a while. I was busy multi-tasking…trying to capture the scene on my Iphone while eating my burrito bowl at the same time. When I noticed the couple again, the mother was trying to talk the timid little boy into the fountain. She got in to coax him, not wanting him to be just a side-liner.

By this time, the first mother and I had begun talking. She said something about my “son.” (Remember, 50-year-olds have babies in LA.) I explained that he was my grandson, and before long a very condensed version of our story came out. Being a neurotic from the South, I tried to make excuses for being a bad disciplinarian. I said something like, “Oh, you know, indulgent grandmothers and all that. Because of our family’s circumstances, James doesn’t have much of a chance to play with other kids. I love to see him having so much fun.”

Something changed in her.

She got out her Iphone, too, and started taking pictures of her little boys having fun in the sun and spray. She let them take their shoes and shirts off in a public square and get just as wet as James.

It was a joy-fest.

At last, I decided it was time to go home. James was starting to get cold. Packing up the stroller with drenched little boy clothes, I looked up to see a beautiful sight:

Those nannies finally relented. That gorgeous little redhead jumped into the water to join in the baptism of Joy.

Strolling home with James wrapped up in my jacket, I reflected on the phenomenon I’d just witnessed. I realized something.

The desire for freedom is contagious.

(So is joy.)

Sometimes you have to break a few rules every now and then; defy conventions a little. Make exceptions. Move beyond your initial response. Do the unexpected. Lay down expectations. Live in the moment. Let your hair down. Relax. Stop and smell…

And give others permission to do so.

I am so glad that I gave James permission to be free that day.

Maybe we should do the same for each other.


“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)


  1. My sister still vividly remembers the first time we had beignets in New Orleans. (Not at Cafe du Monde but a local place...we had family there and my dad went to med school at Tulane so we can't just act like tourists when we're there.)

    A pile of sugared fried dough, hot chocolate, and one of those tin sprinklers of powdered sugar. Dad handed Amy the sugar and said, "Go for it."

    I remember this part because I was just as shocked as Amy.

    She studied him for a minute, not quite believing that this wasn't some sort of test of her ability to use good judgment and self discipline. Then she went for it. That beignet was covered in an avalanche of powdered sugar and Dad just grinned. Finally, Amy did too and fell to. Concluding that it was safe to follow suit, I turned that shaker upside down on my own beignet.

    Then there were seconds.

    I think Amy was five or six but it is definitely one of her formitive memories of Dad. We still talk about it. We made beignets over Thanksgiving weekend for my little ones who were just as shocked when that boy I married said, "Go for it" while Papa (my dad) just grinned.

  2. Awesome! I'm glad James wasn't afraid of the water or of getting wet. I don't recall having access to fountains like that when I was a kid, but I love them just the same. It's fun watching kids revel in it. And it's so good to laugh heartily when you haven't in a while.

    I hope that the unpacking is going well!

    Much love, Desiree

  3. You never regret the spontaneity of a moment like that!

  4. The desire for freedom is contagious.

    (So is joy.)

    Sometimes you have to break a few rules every now and then; defy conventions a little. Make exceptions. Move beyond your initial response. Do the unexpected. Lay down expectations. Live in the moment. Let your hair down. Relax. Stop and smell…

    Thank you for this reminder:) I am sure it was complete joy for you to see James having so much fun! Makes my heart smile. My heart smiles when my own kiddos do things they love. This was an encouragement for me to not hold them back on everything and let the experience JOY. His joy and be free:)

  5. When I looked at the picture of James I noticed the lion and then went back and read what you said about it...isn't it ironic that it's a lion dancing and your post is about freedom? that was just alittle cool to me!! from the picture it looks like the lion is staring up at the sun, like it is free...and so weird that it's a lion! So totally symbolic!!!

  6. ASLAN!

    "...if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!" (John 8:36?)

  7. Thank you so much for reminding us to "live in the moment". Life is precious and we must not let these moments pass us by. With all the turmoil constantly swirling around us we need to embrace these special times. Kim, as my husband says to me often, "We are making memories" and that little boy will remember this! God Bless to all.

  8. Kim,
    I've been following your blog for quite awhile now. I'm gripped by the entire trauman,blessing, grace, miracle of it all...really it's just hard to get my mind around all that your family has and will continue to go through.
    I realized we have a Gainesville connection. I grew up in Gainesville but haven't lived there since I went away to college in 1975, met my husband at North Georgia College and have led the life of an Army wife for almost 32yrs. now.
    I know you are related to Julius Hulsey. When Harriett and Juke's children were small I was their babysitter. My parents lived just down the street from them when they lived on Beverly Dr. I could walk to the house and vividly remember when little Britt was born.
    You might have done some shopping at my grandmother's clothing store....did you ever go to Ronald's? My grandmother owned it and my two aunts, Shirley and Modree had their own dress shops with quite spiffy clothes I might add.
    I got a kick out of your reminiscing of the old days when the sales lady would bring the Villager outfit, shoes etc to the dressing room and there would be your entire outfit!
    Oh for those days again.
    Well I won't ramble anymore.My parents are still living so I get back to Gainesville as often as possible. My husband and I currently live at Fort Drum NY home of the 10th Mountain Division...which I believe has the reputation of the most deployed Division in the Army...yep...I'm getting ready for him to leave for the 3rd time to Afghanistan in Sept.
    Please keep blogging. You are such an inspiration....not to mention Katherine and Jay's strength and courage...and little James is getting so big and handsome!
    Thank you Kim from all your blog stalkers out here!
    Julie Grogan Terry

  9. That particular aunt and uncle were MY babysitters when I was little. They lived next door to my elementary school, and would walk me over in the morning.

    Oh my gosh, of course I grew up shopping at Ronald's!!!

    I remember going there in the '50's and '60's with my cool sorority-girl aunts. My mother and her sisters were absolute fashion plates because of Ronald's. I believe I remember a story about my grandmother's driver (she never learned to drive) taking the 4 girls there and letting them pick out 5 or 6 dresses each...during WWII. It was a big deal.

    We drove over to Shirley's and Modree's throughout High School and college. When I got married, I think my going-away suit was from Shirley's.

    It was another, more graceful era.

    When I wrote that piece, I was thinking of your family's wonderful, gracious establishments. Your aunts were true ladies.

    I do miss those days.

    Thank you for reminding me of that happy period in my life. I was absolutely in love with my grandmother, Nenie, and Gainesville will always hold a very special place in my heart because of her and my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

    I will keep your husband in my prayers!

    Love, Kim

  10. you are an AWESOME mom and grandmother! they are all very very blessed to have you!!
    caroline hogan



Thank you so much for taking the time to write.

It helps to know we're not alone.