i was sitting around a month ago and lamenting how perfunctory our relationship has become and decided to ask my sister if the kids could spend the day with her while i took brian out on a date. we managed to align our schedules so that we both had yesterday free. i took a chance a couple of days ago and told oliver he would be hanging out at aunt lisa's, but not to tell daddy. the kids have never been dropped off before and have never been with someone else for such an extended period of time. i wanted oliver to be able to prepare psychologically instead of just showing up and rolling him out the door.
apparently, on his way with brian to another pump it up party, he told brian he knew a surprise and should he tell brian the surprise then or the next morning. and he decided it would be sooner to tell him then and so he did. which i had expected to happen with 95% certainty.
brian was exceptionally non-questioning about this request for him to keep the day open for a surprise. i guess he's a good sport about surprises. he eventually started saying he thought he knew what it was, probably after receiving the oliver hint.
we left yesterday morning at 9:30 and got the kids set up at lisa's before getting back on the road to fort worth. for some reason i do not understand, the reunion tower observation deck was shut down several years ago to remodel and they never opened it back up, so that was crossed off the list. besides, fort worth is much closer to my sister's house.
the first stop was the botanic gardens. we had been here once before back during that one year of glory days when we were dating and, more specifically, during a time when we were both unemployed. and then we never made it back. the fee for admission is $1.50, but we never saw where you were supposed to pay it. you just drive on in and park wherever you feel like it and no matter where you park, you are already right on in a garden.
the differences between dallas and fort worth can be succinctly summed up by a comparison of the arboretum to the botanic gardens. the arboretum is very sculpted and highly maintained. there are constant activities and sidewalks all over. it is very beautiful, but in a polished way. it costs $14 to get in. the botanic gardens have a wilder, secret feel to them. they don't seem to have the madding crowds (so far as i've seen). there are stone paths that lead into the brush and there are surprises everywhere. we were twisting our way through one of the original 1930s paths, including bridges with two foot high railing (the perfect size for falling over), and had to actually crawl under a fallen tree to continue down the walk. i guarantee you no one nowhere will ever be found crawling under a fallen tree at the arboretum.
it was painfully gorgeous. the weather perfect. the sky blue. the clouds white. the leaves turning colors. the air smelled clean. i wanted to cry several times, which reminds me how much i need to go outside more.
a leaf for oliver. the front was like reptile skin, the back was like cotton.
i was searching and searching for this cluster of magnolia trees where i had taken a photo of our legs sitting in it eight years before. i just wanted to climb that tree again. i'm a former tree climber. only ever fell once. out of a dogwood. good tree to fall out of. so, i couldn't leave there and not find the tree and be content. but we had parked in a different spot and i was totally turned around and couldn't figure it out. i finally found a path through some rose gardens and was supersonic excited to be recognizing it and then realized we were looping back to a spot we had already been. then... as i was moping my way back, there it was. i had gone right past it. and sadly, this sign was sitting right next to it.
i reckon it had been there before and we had just hung out in the branches long enough to disregard it momentarily, because that's how i started to feel sitting in there. but i only went as far as getting a leg up on a low branch for two seconds before seeing brian's disapproving glare on the other side of it. instead, we sat inside the magnolia cave. quietly. feeling the smooth bark. inspecting the fallen paraphernalia. listening to the train whistles across the road. it was cool and silent and hidden and beautiful. i wanted to sleep there and know the experience of a tree. metaphysical, this place.
she's got michele bachmann eyes. this crazy eye thing is really getting out of control. you should see the one two frames before this. we look completely insane. like we're recruiting for our cult or love triangle. a very scary love triangle where we will kill and eat you once we're done with you.
oliver said this looks like a cigarette. which made me want to create a photo vignette with that as a cigarette. fancy second-hand smoke.
i had to keep reminding brian to hold my hand with non-accidental accidental fist taps and i had to remind him he could still kiss my cheek by saying, "guess who doesn't have herpes." we are badly out of practice. usually too busy holding hands of children. or grasping our foreheads. or throwing them up to the heavens in supplication.
after two hours, we headed to spiral diner. THIRTY MINUTE WAIT. but it felt like only twenty. brian grew grumpy, believing we were being passed over and wanting to know why two tables sat empty. i filled his glass halfway and reminded him this was the perfect time to have a wait... no children losing their minds under our ownership.
my sister texted periodic photos of the children distributing bird seed and collecting acorns and watching dallas cowboys.
we finally made it to a prime corner booth. philly cheesesteak for me. taco salad and grapefruit soda for him. pumpkin cheesecake for me. raw chocolate torte for him. we were ready to throw it right up, we were so pleasantly stuffed.
he guessed the third activity over lunch and i pretended he was sadly mistaken. i had had daydreams of leading him to the cusp of activity number three to be revealed instantaneously in all its glory. but the water gardens signs by the street were a bit of a giveaway. free meters on the weekends! right on, fort worth!
i continued using my super powers of walking flat on by that which i was highly seeking. we saw the aerating pool with the jets.
and straight ahead. oh my god. i had forgotten. THE MOUNTAIN.
ok, look. this place was built in 1974, back when people had little concern for personal safety, never mind absolute paranoia for personal safety. i have no idea how this place is still open. google WATER GARDENS FORT WORTH DEATHS. actually, don't. because i'll probably just spill those beans in a minute. but, you should google WATER GARDENS LOGANS RUN.
so, THE MOUNTAIN. you walk along this expanse of rock-filled cement, you know the kind. it's the same type that gave oliver that gushing head wound last year at the foyer door. then, slabs of it rise from the ground to a height of 20 feet. you see children climbing all over it. the worst part is that each step is 20 inches high, ending in a ledge of 3-4 inches. you fall, you die. and so, brian begins to scale it. i got that feeling i get at the top of the texas star. impending death. couldn't breathe. he looked more clinging and frightened the farther up he got. but what are you going to do? climb back down? i don't think you can.
it was true. he was getting scared. he scrambled over the top and stayed way back for his victory wave to the camera.
i went around the side, thinking i'd find the active pool, but it was more manageable steps, upon one sat a man in our age range. brian happened to be walking up and behind him and lo, both were named brian. i thought he was one of those exuberant, overly friendly types because he started saying, "hey! how are you?!" and i kind of made indications there was someone behind him and he kept on and i was like, what. and he started to step down and i thought he was going to hug me, so i finally asked, "do i know you?" and that's when we learned the tale of two brians. i just happened to look like a friend of his he hadn't seen in a year. oops.
i climbed up the easy side of the mountain and then we explored the quiet pool, still not knowing how it was we were unable to spot the active pool. this thing is gorgeous. it's sunken and the walls all have water cascading down to a trough with some of those water-type trees with the knobby roots and then a big pool in the middle. somehow, i guess the roots run under the sidewalk and then pop up all along the edge of the pool.
we came back up again and i finally realized the active pool was on the other edge of the mountain. i had been too consumed watching a tween and waiting for her to fall into a pile of broken bones to have seen it.
you guys. this thing is break-your-neck amazing. i hadn't seen it in 12 years, back when i was dating phil.
we went a step or two in and my fear of heights and plummeting to my death kicked in and i sat down. brian continued. i watched people struggling to pass one another as the steps grew smaller and smaller. people were leading small children down there. brian came up and we both sat awhile. some of the people cleared out and i took a chance to go a few steps down, because i knew i'd be irritated if i let my fear win out. it wasn't so bad going down, but a few steps from the bottom, i started to freeze up. after a few moments, i turned to go back up and it's worse going back up and i felt totally off kilter and could see the water rushing down out of my right eye and that was making me more off kilter. i looked up long enough to see brian snapping photos with his phone and i waved him to get down there and help me out of that thing. but i managed to start getting back up there on my own. holy shit. i don't know how people aren't falling down that thing every 10 minutes.
i typed too many things about the water gardens. go google FORT WORTH WATER GARDENS DEATHS. really fucking sad. did you read the part about the tiny hand? and the socks?
brian went and pooped in the convention center across the street and then we went to retrieve our children. oliver and jeff had collected something like 244 acorns. everyone there had survived.