I currently enjoy being of a certain age when the impetus to go out and see and be seen is no longer alive or kicking in my system. I look forward to quiet weekends. I have all I need: my beloved cat, my dog and an iPad and I keep fingers crossed for good weather,not for gardening or because I have something to do outside. No, I like cloudless days because means stellar satellite reception. Any combination of those things plus a lack of noise, make for a delightful evening in Laurieland.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the occasional rip in my personal space/time continuum. My balance is thrown off from time to time and I welcome it, especially when I’m called upon to babysit my four-year old great-niece, Emily, when her parents, who are in their early 30′s will on occasion, give in to that youthful need to go out on a Saturday night. She is no bother at all and I love having her as a guest.
She’s a typical Kendrick–lovely platinum blond hair that won’t see a L’Oreal box of Lightest Blonde (Shade 9A) to keep it looking that way for at least 14 more years. She has big blue eyes and a smattering of freckles–cute as a button. Smart too. I’ve already gotten her fixation started with tornadoes. Yes, she too is fascinated by nature’s terrorists. I plan on introducing her to paramecium over the Fourth of July weekend.
Her favorite thing to do when she visits me is to eat yogurt and then go to Burger Czar, in that order. There’s a play ground there. She’s like every child; going there to combine play with eating a kid’s meal consisting of chicken strips, a Sprite and some lame ass prize is like Mecca to them.
Usually, the fast food place isn’t that crowded on Friday nights but it was on this particular evening. There were five young boys already playing on the plastic Jungle Gym with its slide, netting to climb, tubes to crawl through and conjunctivitis to contract. She had more guts than I did at her age. She walked right up to the contraption and started playing. Soon, she was fully involved in the boys’ game which combined tag and hide and seek. They got along well, except for one tyke who I feel sure has an undiagnosed issue somewhere within the Autism Spectrum. I’m no specialist in the field of childhood behavior, but I know different when I see it and every time Emily approached this boy, he shouted “NO!!!”, as loud as he could while holding his hand in her face, palm up. Then he’d run away. He didn’t do it to the boys, just with Emily. I watched this scene repeat several times. It was like he’d taken some kind of a kiddie self-defense classes or had one of those Bean Sprout/sugar-free moms who give their kids time out when bad behavior rears its head. She also restricts access to certain TV shows, monitors use on the computer and stresses the importance of ‘their own space”. Sure, all these things are vital. I would imagine my life would be quite different had I understood the relevance of imposing my own spatial restrictions.
But I didn’t, so this was rather odd behavior to me, especially for a child.
Emily wasn’t phased by it all. She looked him over then promptly overlooked it him. It didn’t affect her playtime. Take the possibility of autism or Asperger’s out of the scenario and Emily didn’t care if he was different in look or actions. She was there to have fun; she shared the kids’ motto: join in if you want, but if you do, be prepared to laugh and play. “Just say no” will come in handy right around their Freshmen year of High School.
She was a joy to watch. Laughing with the other kids who made up a delightful ethnic salad. Two white kids, two Hispanics, Mr. No and Emily. None of the kids did seemed to even notice. It wasn’t about the amount of melanin in the skin–or the lack thereof, as was the case with the two pale-skinned Lebensborners. They played with kids, as kids, untarnished by the race and gender issues of their elders. Fun was the order of the day. As long as you could play, you were welcome to join in. Kinda like life.
I loved watching it all unfold amid the smell of grease and feet. You see, shoes are verboten in the play area. odors aside, Emily was a delight; strong and happy, independent yet she played well with others. She was, “Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (Gym)!!
When it was time to leave Burger Shah, all the kids said goodbye to each other. We went back to my house to look for snails in my front garden. They’re very large here in Texas this spring. This past weekend, I found a two single incher making dinner out of a Caladium.
Like any good hostess, I keep candy in a dish in my foyer. York Peppermint Patties are the current culinaire du jour and Emily LOVES these things. She grabbed one as she went out the front door to go snail hunting. It wasn’t long before we found ( in Emily’s words), several mommy snails, daddy snails and baby snails. I watched her pick up a tiny one to examine it. She was holding a mint in one hand, exploring the slimy underbelly of a snail in the other one.
“She’s so smart”, I said to myself. “Further proof of those wonderfully superior Kendrick genes! She’ll go far in this world.”
I went back to my search for more daddy snails, when I heard her give out this combination scream and laugh. I turned around to see if she was okay and she was making a face. Apparently, she absent-mindedly put the snail in her mouth in stead of the mint pattie. She spit it out, informing me even though she didn’t bite down on it, it did indeed, “taste like doodoo”. I did nothing but laugh along with her. At four she was too young to understand an escargot joke.
She ate the mint, we continued our snail hunt and I uttered to myself a familiar, but now slightly modified rhetorical, ”Further proof of those Kendrick genes.”