Grace and I dropped Lydia off downtown at her rehearsal and then drove back through Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, the sun in my eyes the whole time.
On Perkins Street, as we approached Jamaica Pond, Grace said, “Let’s stop here and walk around.”
I, thinking selfishly of afternoon coffee, tried to reason her out of this impulse: “We don’t have hats. Our heads will get cold.”
Grace was undeterred. “Look at all this hair. Our heads will be warm enough.”
Try again. “I have gloves, but you don’t.”
“Mom, look at all the gloves on the floor back here. And a scarf.”
I parked the car; we tiptoed down the snowy slope to the path. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and already the snow was taking on the blue of the air, and the trees were as dark as espresso against the sky and frozen pond. I persuaded Grace to stand near the shore and get her picture taken. As I posed her this way and that way, I spotted in my peripheral vision some walkers coming down the path to my left, and I heard a woman’s voice chirp, “Taking a picture!”
There must have been something in her voice that invited me, because, without stopping to think or ask permission, I turned and said, “And now I’m taking a picture of you!” I snapped the woman and her companions.
The three of them looked over my shoulder as Miranda, the woman with the scarf and sunglasses, dictated her e-mail address to me. Whoosh, I sent the photo to this stranger.
“Now, us. We take picture of you.” (I deduced from Miranda’s last name and their way of speaking that their first language was Italian.) I showed them how to use the iPhone camera, and the woman in the black coat took three snaps of Grace and me. The less posed ones — when the woman’s finger slipped on the screen — I like best.
We said good-bye and kept walking. Grace and I picked up an ongoing conversation we’ve been having since she was about two years old and met my friend Lisette’s dog, Douglas: what kind of dog does Grace think would be suitable for us? A bundled-up woman with a greyhound in a fleece jacket held her dog as we ambled past her. The dog was jumpy.
“Mom, you didn’t make a very good impression on that dog.”
What? It was the dog, not me.
There were ducks walking delicately on the scrim of ice near the shore. One had bright orange feet, the only bit of color.
Solitary joggers ran by intermittently. We picked up the pace, wanting to make it around before it got dark, and passed the boathouse, the metal rowboats upturned on a rack. Grace looked out at the pond and took pictures of duck tracks on snow.
More joggers. A big poodle, off leash, ran by. Shortly after, so did his owner, a short man calling, “Did you find something, girl? Did you find something?” Indeed, the dog was on a mission, and the man tracked her up the slope.
“That dog would be too big for us,” Grace said. And we walked.
It was a few minutes before 5:00, almost dark, and we had come around to Perkins Street again. A little white dog stood near the boots of her walker and panted in our direction. “What a cute dog!” I said, as an indirect way to start a conversation with the man in boots holding the leash. We stopped. “We’re doing some dog research,” I said to the man. “What kind of dog is that?”
“A Westie,” he replied.
“Are they talkative, or, um, barkative? I’ve heard that Jack Russell terriers are real yippers,” I said.
“Oh, she’s very quiet. Aren’t you, Bina? Oh, we’ve even had to train her to talk, she’s so quiet.”
Meanwhile, Bina lay down at Grace’s feet and presented her belly for rubbing and scratching. Grace rubbed and scratched the white fur. Bina writhed appreciatively.
“Grace, dogs like you,” I said to her as we walked away and back to our car. “You have a special force.”
In the car, the radio came on as the engine did. Timbaland sang, “Baby girl, I ain’t got a motorboat but I can float your boat.” We sang along and went home.
P.S. Dear Grace, thank you! xo