Monday, August 22, 2011
In my younger years, through the teens, younger people didn't like me. At least, that was my impression when upon my picking them up, or even looking for too long caused an otherwise peaceful child to burst into hysterics. Fits of tears great enough to result in that pained shortness of breath.
Of late, however, this is not my lot. Thankfully, it has not been so for a few years now. I can (and do) hold children and play with them, as many adults have before me. And I've even been complimented on my "way with children."
Recently, I've experienced another first...twice. I was visiting a friend and her family over the Easter weekend. A number of us, including my friend's young nieces and nephews, went on a hike to see a waterfall. After a short ride to the trail head, our party disembarked and started that sometimes awkward shuffle, in which a group arranges itself to hike the trail. As we're all deciding who will want to talk about our topics, or who will be diverted by the same sights, and what hiking partner will walk as fast or slow as I. As we processed all that info, the tiniest set of fingers slipped into my hand. The, just more than two year old, niece of my friend decided that she wanted to walk with me.
At that moment, it felt like my heart expanded to fill my entire chest. Even now, when I think about it, I just want to hug her again. It didn't matter how fast or slow she wanted to walk. She could stop and look at anything she wanted, or nothing at all. We could have walked in total silence, or she could never have stopped talking. In that moment, she held me in the palm of her hand. I felt a little like an escort protecting a work of art. Only this beautiful little girl chose me. Not for any reasons I understand. But I also didn't ask. Sometimes the part you can't explain is the part that makes it beautiful.
Not long after, my own family was visiting from out of state. We were gathered at my parents' house. My aunt and her family were coming off of a nine hour trip and were a bit frayed. We were helping them get things out of their van, trekking back and forth across the street. My youngest cousin, also just over the two year mark, and I trudged sleepily up to the curb at the same time, and, without a word slipped her oh-so-small hand into my own.
I tried to keep it together. I didn't want to make a big deal out of it, we'd only met that morning. But somehow, it's like nothing else matters. It reminds me of a soap bubble, so beautiful, so fragile. Let's go.