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 The gang—Daize, Towser, and Tawnse, all aliases, aged 9, 8, and just for  a little bit longer 5—have picked up a new skill in the pandemic. Disappearing into their surroundings. 

Before you go there, no this isn’t a pandemic socialization piece. It’s not a learning loss and socialization piece either. This is a post about an honest to goodness new skill the gang has picked up.

In  retrospect, I suppose it started with Towser years ago. Walking though a park near our home in San Francisco,  we realized that five year-old Towser was  just gone. We looked around for him a bit, but I had a feeling in my somewhat panicked gut that I knew where he was. We headed for the house. Sure enough he was sitting on the steps by the front door. 

“Hey! I’ve been waiting for you!” Towser groused. “I just picked a different path through the forest when you weren’t looking. I wanted to see if I could sneak all the way home.”

We talked a bit about  the  importance of knowing where he was and all that good stuff, but all in all, I considered the whole thing a win. The kid has always been the best geographer of any of us, and he’d shown that he could handle himself well without us, even if the without us thing hadn’t been voluntary on the part of my partner and I.

Fast forward to our pandemic summer. We were staying in a tiny little town where we could easily get to publicly accessible lakes, streams, forests, and mountains. For those not in the know, in New Mexico and Montana, if  land isn’t marked ‘Posted’, even if it’s fenced, you can go there too. You need to leave if asked by the land owner, but otherwise it’s all good.

Back to our story: Last fall, the gang and I had headed to a creek where we’d had good luck fishing before. Another creek fed into ours, and where the two met, the bank was covered with grass standing about four feet high. As I fished, the kids were having a blast playing with each other in the grass. Occasionally they’d come back down to the creek, I’d show them the fish that had turned up recently.

Late that afternoon, I looked upstream to see a man motioning to me, waving me back towards him. I correctly figured it was the land owner. As I walked back towards him, I looked around for the kids. They were gone. The gentleman politely informed me that I couldn’t leave our car on the side of the road where I’d left it. He asserted—an assertion I had no desire to argue with— that the Trooper was parked off the side of his private road. As he spoke to me, he looked around. He seemed haunted. I informed him that I would pack up, and move the car. He turned around to walk back out of the area. I packed up.

Then, I waited. I waited till I couldn’t see him anymore. Then  I  waited another two minutes. I had a gut feeling I wanted to test. I walked about thirty yards away from the stream into the middle of the tall grass, and quietly said, “Daize, Towser, Tawnse, it’s all good.” Three kids popped up from beneath the tall grass, two to each side, and one straight in front of me. We all giggled for a bit, and then headed out.

Today, back in New Mexico, we headed out for a desert explore. The gang found a fascinating ravine, and proceeded to explore, immediately setting up different projects, digging along its edge. I crested a nearby hill. It wasn’t essential, but—if I tried—I could see the gang. I settled in, trying my hand at painting a watercolor painting of a desert— inspired by our  viewing of Enola Holmes last night. 

After a while, I looked up to see a jogger cruising by about  five feet from the edge of the ravine and parallel to it. I looked to see if I needed to holler at the gang to pull their masks up, but… They weren’t there. There was no one there. They’d gone.

As before, I waited a bit. The jogger faded into the distance. As I turned to focus on the spot where the kids had been, I heard it. Delighted giggling from the bottom of the ravine. They’d done it again. Learning to be invisible, not a bad skill to pick up in a pandemic I suppose.


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