Tuesday, September 03, 2013
I’m worried, she said. What’s going to happen to us?
She leaned confidingly towards her friend with whom she was sharing a snack. They were eating crisp seaweed, drinking strawberry flavored milk while the dad of one of them (I heard him say “so I asked my ex what she wanted for the birthday & she said ‘take her away for the day’”) waited for coffee and breakfast.
Her friend looked up and smiled, her pink sequined shirt catching the morning light. Well, I’m going to be a fairy, she said.
Her friend brightened. I’m going to be a princess, said she, and they were off into a discussion of the relative merits of fairies or princesses as life paths.
Later I saw the little boy with the superman figure clenched in his hand. He was striking up conversation with everyone at the Laundromat while pretty ceaselessly jumping, hopping, and twirling. When you are little it is so very hard to keep both feet on the ground & walk in careful straight lines. My mom always swore I wouldn’t put my heels down on the ground till I was 4 or 5. Tiptoe and bounce was the right way for me.
The jumping boy was excited to tell me “I can climb high trees! And someday I’ll fly!” I was impressed. And so was everyone else.
“Look! I can stand On One Foot!” and “I am Very Strong!” he said, as he and Superman swooped around.
When I was 4 or 5 I wanted with all my heart to grow up to be a ballerina (pretty costumes. Also you stand on your toes a lot) Or a cowgirl (I loved Dale Evans, someone many now don’t recall, the partner of Roy Rogers, ever lovely, ever smiling. I got to go to my aunt’s house—we didn’t have a television—to watch the end of the Roy Rogers Show, and sang along. Happy Trails to You, until we meet again…)
Or a nun. I saw a nun once. I liked her long black and white dress and the headdress she wore, and her pretty necklace, pinned to her gown, all beads and a cross. I thought it elegant. Someone like that must have a great life.
My mother, ever practical, told me I couldn’t be a nun. We were Lutherans. Lutherans don’t have nuns.
It seemed a serious oversight. I figured I’d change that when I grew up, between riding horses with Dale Evans and dancing a lot on my toes.
The future was bright. I don’t think I ever paused then to think or say “I don’t know what will happen to me”
At the time my father was a pilot in Air Rescue in Korea. We couldn’t afford a place stateside on his pay, so it was a good thing my aunt and uncle had some apartments near their big house where they were raising four sons. I was petted, cherished, & happy. I had kittens and a wild blackhaired Italian playmate named Gina.
Gina and I spent a lot of time looking for fairies. And of course finding them.
I felt safe.
Maybe no one talked of hard things around me? Maybe no one cried? I don’t know.
Sometimes childhood is a safe ground, but more and more I see kids who dance sweetly through uncertainty and brashly through change.
Traveling children, babies, 4 year olds, who sleep in a car or camp with a parent in the woods. Kids who would love to grow up to be fairies or superheroes. Or just grow up, maybe.
I love their beauty and strength.
So the other morning I saw a little video in which a 4 or 5 year old was featured. A sturdy, brave kid like my young tree climber.
But first the video was a confusion of adult men. Rushing, talking. One looked so upset, so stricken. He called out, over and over again at the full white heat of desperate love. His friends surrounded him. They were telling him something important, something he could barely believe. And then—the child! Healthy, unhurt. Upset, sure, and tearful, but not a hair on his sweet head was hurt.
He and his father clung to each other, surrounded by the father’s friends. The father touched the boy’s cheek, hair, face.
You are here! You are alive! I love you!
I don’t understand the language of the video, but human emotions need no translation, do they? The language of joy, relief, love—that’s universal.
I put my head down and sobbed.
They were Syrian. I thought of children all over the planet who wonder about growing up. Is it better to be a fairy or a princess? What does the future hold? I thought of friends and parents and this world we live in, full of hope and fear and decisions made by people I will never meet, for reasons I will never fathom.
And how I want to keep them all safe, all of us, everyone. Fairies, and cowboys and princesses and treeclimbers. And you. And me.
Happy trails to you, keep smiling now and then…
(the video is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYQe72F0Mc4)