Went for a walk with the boys today.
The railroad used to run right past our house. Well, it still does, but they stopped running trains over a year ago. So the tracks are still there, rails and sleepers. But abandoned.
We walked along the railroad for about a kilometer. Since this is the former Soviet Union, the tracks are a fly-dump for all the neighborhoods they pass through. Exploded bags of garbage are everywhere. Shards of broken glass glitter from between the sleepers. We passed four abandoned cars; the boys stopped for a few minutes to play "car" inside one. It was full of shards of jagged metal, and -- I am not making this up -- someone had left a book of matches inside. I lost track of how many broken fixtures and household appliances we passed: sinks, an oven, microwaves, a humidifier. Basically, it was a walk along a very long, narrow trash dump and junkyard.
The boys -- you've probably guessed this already -- loved it. Totally loved it. Were deeply impressed by all the stuff out of context. (An oven can be ripped out and thrown away? Cool!) Wanted to stop and play with the junk. Didn't mind the garbage a bit.
We walked as far as the Big Tunnel. The tunnel is over a quarter of a mile long, and it curves so you can't see the end. Inside it's cool, almost chilly. We walked a few meters in and Alan didn't want to go further. A bit more, and David began to balk. But we got as far as the end of the light, a good hundred yards inside, where it started to curve out of sight into total darkness. When we turned around the light from the distant entrance was almost blinding. Afterwards the boys solemnly agreed that, yes, it had been scary, though not too scary.
It wasn't all junk. It was a beautiful day, clear and sunny and mild. Late autumn wildflowers bloomed through the garbage. A grasshopper, dozy with the cool, let Alan put his face right up close, though it jumped and buzzed away at a touch. There's a plant here that's something like milkweed, with pods that break open into gossamer seed-fibers. We teased out the threads and flung them skywards, and they drifted away on the breeze.
It was the sort of day where you can say to a boy, "You can run ahead if you like," and he'll dart away like a skipped stone, and run until he stops. Not because there's something particular up ahead, but just because.
At the big construction site near the house they've dug a big hole, big enough for a small house, for no reason that I can see. Alan said, "Let's explore the hole!" There was nothing at the bottom but rocks, but that was fine. Instead of walking back out and around, Alan decided to climb around the other side of the hole. At one point there was a two story drop under his foot. I started to say "Alan, be careful," and then stopped myself. Alan climbed past the tricky bit without hesitating, and rejoined me on the tracks.
The builders had just brought in a new crane. It was huge, but still lying on the ground in pieces. The cockpit, where the crane operator sits, was face down, so we could walk under it and see his seat and control panel facing down. The biggest piece of the horizontal crane made a jungle gym, fifty feet long and ten high. Both boys climbed along the length of it. Alan grabbed a cable still covered in fresh grease; it took minutes of vigorous scrubbing to get his hand sort-of clean.
When we got home, Mommy was making noodles. Afterwards there was coloring on the kitchen table.
And that was Sunday afternoon.