Now that the weather is finally cooler, Ryan and I like to take the boys to San Gabriel Park in Georgetown, a few miles up the road from our house. The park runs alongside a river, and it's not unusual to encounter ducks, geese, and even horses, accompanied by riders, of course. There are different playgrounds scattered throughout the park, and James and Ryan run from place to place while I push Rhys in his stroller and try not to panic when James gets too close to the river's edge.
Usually, we see lots of children and families like ourselves. On our last visit, we saw a girl in a purple gown having her quinceanera pictures taken and a group of little boys dressed from head to toe in cowboy gear, riding horseback through the park with their parents. It's a change of scenery from our neighborhood, and the boys have a wonderful time.
Today, we met Hope. I first saw her as she jumped too quickly from a running van, and the elderly man driving it screamed at her to wait. She ran to the playground ahead of him, and he took his time getting out of his vehicle, walking around it several times before heading over to where she played. Hope was friendly and soon found a playmate in James, climbing the playscape and riding the tire swing alongside him. I noticed the dirty knees of her pants and her dry, cracked lips, and my heart broke for her a bit.
Hope played with our boys for a long time, laughing as Ryan spun her "too fast" on the tire swing and quietly asking James, "Who's your mom's boyfriend?" Her grandpa made a bit of small talk and easily left her with us to walk down by the river, before she ran off after him. He smoked a few cigarettes while she played, and I heard him call her a "silly girl" over and over again, once saying that he would tell her grandmother how silly she was.
Oh, thank God, there is a grandmother.
He told me she was the third oldest of his great-grandchildren, that she would be five in March, and you could hear the pride in his voice. We left shortly after that, and Hope seemed sad to see us go. Maybe we'll see her again on one of our park visits, and I'll pray that she is safe and warm tonight.
I don't know what her little life is like, and I know it's wrong to assume too much, but she has a grandfather who takes her to the park on a Sunday afternoon, and that has to count for something.