As every Irish child knows, no toy, nor even the box it came in, can match the fun to be had in a decent sized puddle. All you need is a pair of wellies and a love of being soaked. My daughter, who could discover trouble in a convent (this is charming in a two year old but the possibilities of her teen years are a worry to me), was immediately drawn to every puddle - from the small and shallow to the deep and seemingly bottomless - and she had brand new pink wellies to enable her explorations. Every morning, while we were back in Limerick, my father and Natasha would take his enormous alsation, Mack, for a walk, trailed by two giggling toddlers, who couldn't believe they were this close to such a huge animal . The dog for his part, seemed resigned and bemused by these two tiny humans shouting his name at earsplitting volume and then running away half scared, half delighted when he cocked his head their way. It being Ireland in the winter, puddles were plentiful and both Shane and Maya indulged heartily. Everyday Natasha would return with two besplattered kids. But Shane didn't even come close to the level of Maya's filthiness. She routinely needed a full scrub down.
We arrived back in San Francisco to beautiful, sunny, cold winter days, having missed the deluge that preceded our arrival and flooded many parts of Northern California. On our first walk in the park, Maya promptly discovered a pothole filled to the brim with muddy water. As a puddle jumper par excellence, she recognises puddle perfection when she sees it and took a mighty leap right in. We were happy it kept the two kids occupied while we could relax and enjoy the sunshine, chatting happily with Dervala and Tim, who were both with us. Pretty soon, however, passersby started shooting us concerned looks. People would glance at the kids, then back at us, as if to say, "Do you realise your child is jumping in a puddle and GETTING DIRTY?" Other strollers stopped to take photos on their cellphones. Dervala commented that we could probably charge $5 entry fee for the spectacle. It seems Americans have an aversion to dirt and a muddy child is an oddity. As far as we were concerned, the only problem was the ensuing meltdown when we had to load them back into the stroller to head home. It was getting dark, and at this stage, Maya had decided that lying face down in the pothole was the way to go. She looked like she had been dipped in an oil well. She sobbed the whole way home, mourning the loss of her lovely pothole. We decided to take the side streets as we were getting enough stares as it is. Having three children under the age of four is enough of a curiousity in San Francisco - but when one of them is covered in mud and screaming bloody murder, it becomes a sideshow.
Photo courtesy of Tim.