Tucked away in a residential neighborhood in Baltimore, there is a gorgeous tulip garden that bursts into bloom each spring. It’s the kind of place that is astonishing in its beauty, all the more so because somehow it still has the feel of a secret garden, even though it’s very well-known in the area. It’s the kind of place that attracts tons of tourists, landscape painters, and photographers, yet you can still feel like you have a piece of it to yourself.
We often take our family Easter photos there, but because we were out of town and Easter fell early, we hadn’t been yet this year. At the end of a busy weekend, we made a spur-of-the moment decision to take the kids there after dinner one night. It was a little chilly, a little late, and I was leaning towards scrapping our plans. But we had already mentioned it to the kids and, well, you know how that goes…
We got to the park and the boys took off running, giddy with the freedom of open green space and the thrill of being out on a school night. The sun was starting to set, but there was still enough light to illuminate the yellow tulips so vibrant they almost glowed, the fist-sized pink flowers in another bed, and the fluffy pink cotton-candy blooms of the cherry trees.
The kids had brought a red rubber ball, and we broke into an impromptu soccer game. My 6yo son skillfully darted around maneuvering the ball out from under us, arching it over his dad’s head with a graceful kick. I chased after him, feet pounding, laughing, gasping for air. “You’re so FAST! Come back here!” He laughed, too, running faster, never taking his eye off the ball.
My 4yo clambered up trees with branches as thick and curved as elephant trunks. “Look at me, Daddy! Mom, I’m way up here!” His cheeks were flushed pink like the blossoms, hair tousled by the breeze. He discovered the footpaths weaving through the flower beds and took off skipping. “Come on, guys, follow me!” Swinging from branches, leaping off stone benches.
These gardens were created in the 1920’s, on part of the estates of newspaper magnates and oil tycoons. The homes ringing the park are almost impossibly grand and stately, the polar opposite of the narrow, marble-stepped rowhouses that are so iconic of Baltimore. I’ve been lucky enough to get to go inside several of them, as part of reporting and writing stories for local magazines over the years. I once got to interview a butler in the pool house of one of the mansions. (Sounds like a game of Clue, doesn’t it?)
It’s a sad fact of adulthood that I can’t look at these houses now without thinking of real estate, landscaping, property taxes, school districts. I hate how much time I spend thinking about, worrying about, obsessing about money. Success. Prestige. Worth. Being a grownup is so overrated. I miss the innocence of just kicking a ball and climbing trees.
As the evening light began to fade and the air grew chillier, we started to head for home. But before we left, it occurred to me: I didn’t have to own it to enjoy it. And the view is just as beautiful on this side of the pool house. Maybe even more.