In reverse

“I don’t like cleaning up,” she complained. The floor was strewn with blocks, mini-figurines, doll’s clothing, crayons, plastic tea-set, make up kits, paper bits, and other detritus of a long afternoon.

Her brother frowned. He’s been occupied with his tablet instead of playing with her and while it was nice to have the chatterbox quiet for a change, he did not relish the prospect of doing the work or facing the dressing down he’d get if his parents returned to see the living room drowned under mountains of little-girl paraphernalia.

She glowered back, lower lip already quivering in preparation for what he knew all too well will be a battle he would lose.

“It’s not cleaning up,” he started.

“What?” she squinted, suspicious.

“You see,” he enticed, “it’s like magic …”

“Magic …? ” She still wasn’t buying it.

“Yes, magic! You’ll be making a mess in reverse!”

 

For The Daily Post

Swing high

To all the little girls on beaches everywhere …

Inspired by the beatific smile of one …

Remembered with much fondness today.

 

swing beach

Swing high.

Touch the sky.

Feel the sand 

Rushing by.

Sense the surf

Humming forth.

Hear the waves

Singing froth.

Swing on high.

To the sky.

Sun and cloud

Streaming by.

Move your heart

To the pace,

Of your legs’

Aerial race.

Swing up high.

Touch the sky.

My oh my.

Breathe and fly.

When I Grow Up

wings

“When I grow up, I will be a bird.”

The little girl is adamant. She has made up her mind. It is final. This is what she’ll be. She’s even wearing training-wings.

It lasts about a day.

“I’ll be a batgirl fire-fightress (sic),” she announces.

“Not a bird?”

A look that shows just how impossibly slow adults can get is followed by: “No, I won’t be a bird anymore. I will be a fire-fightress.”

She is deeply disappointed with me that I did not notice the colors of her clothing all in red and yellow or the swirly bracelet around her wrist that’s meant to be the hose. She’s completely done with birds and fully involved in counting fire-hydrants, yellow helmets at the dinner-table, and nighttime fire-drills.

The next time she comes she is in a tutu. I feel confident for all of five seconds that I know what she is now going to be when she grows. I should have known better. She sets me straight.

“Not a ballet dancer!” she intones dismissively, noting my apparent limitations in assessing the meaning of her chosen dress. “I’m going to be a fairy. Can’t you see this is a fairy skirt?”

She’s a skier the following week. A princess the one after. A “limpic” skateboarder (a la TV competitions she watched over the weekend). A zoo-keeper. A dentist (her mother crosses fingers for that one!).

For one moment she even considers being a speech-pathologist. Then she decides that she can do better and just use stickers and markers as the president, too. “I need them for signs so they will see me,” she lisps decidedly. “And for presents. Presidents need lots of presents because it is in their name.”

She considers a plumbing career (after their bathtub floods). Becomes a pianist when she spots a broken piano on the sidewalk and bangs a (thankfully) brief concert. She’s going to be an astronaut. A doctor, too (“to fix the aliens if they get sick and to give me medicine from tummy ache”).

There is a passing mention of a police officer or maybe a model, undecided who.

She’s a whirlwind of professions. One day she’s “for sure” one thing, and the next day for sure “not THAT!” but surely just the same another.

Her parents hold on tight and let her fly. Oh, yeah, there is a pilot era, too, complete with airplanes spinning in the park and an insistence on perching on the monkey-bars’ “top top one where pilots are.”

The jury’s out on what she’ll be when she grows up. What we know in almost certainty is that it could well be what she declared today, or yesterday, or in three different periods during the past week, or will introduce in full high drama sometime tomorrow or next month.

For now, she’s a rolodex of pure anticipation. Dress-up, here she comes!

dressup

The Language of a Smile

smile

This may be cliche to some, but not to me. I’ve seen it. Many times.

Just the other week, I saw a group of children–preschoolers–play at the airport, in the space between gates with flights departing to globe spanning destinations.

Some among the handful of kids spoke different languages, and none of them knew each other until a moment prior. 

Nonetheless, there was a long wait to be had, a few empty water bottles, a ribbon to pull, and play-ready age-mates to pass the time with. So they found a way. Their giggles filled the space with the ripple of childhood joy that knows no borders, religion, nationality, language, tradition, or race.

The children babbled to each other in their own respective languages, understanding not the words but at the very least enough to go on playing, to take turns, to get a notion for a silly something that sent waves of hilarity through the lot of them …

Adults sat nearby, keeping an eye on their child with a little less wariness of each other, now that their young ones felt so at ease. After all, these were just children playing together: they were not political statements or status symbols or religious flagships. They did not carry burdens of group-mentalities or dogmas or beliefs. It was okay to just be. To share a moment. And a smile.

For the adults, too, smiled. A careful, half-lip smile, weighted by whatever notions and knowings, history and worries adults often have for those they do not know and whose language they don’t understand. A half-smile it began but it grew warmer when eyes met following a child’s antic, a cute gesture, a silly face, a giggly laugh.

Like the children, the adults smiled the same smile in every language. Or rather, they smiled in one language–the one we all recognize and know by heart. The language of humanity. The language of a smile.