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Posts Tagged ‘childhood innocence’

both books (2)_LI

I’m growing older, but not up. (Jimmy Buffett)

The tension in my neck tells me I am not in synch with the world as it is. Mass natural disasters are difficult enough to understand; mass hatred is another. I don’t need to delineate any of it. The blind can hear about it, and the deaf can read closed-caption. The unaffected remain in a narrow, wire-thin margin.

Pain begins before the first commercial on any news channel. Gentle heat helps my muscles. Distraction, blended with love, helps my spirit.

My husband and I take Dakota to afternoon kindergarten on Thursdays. Dakota asks me to sit in the back seat with him. We discuss the six-year-old boy world and his unique observations along the familiar route.

This young man notices details: The recycling truck has two steering wheels and two sets of brakes… He discerns how a toy train track fits together. His mechanical expertise will probably surpass mine before he reaches third grade!

During a rare pause Dakota notices the back cover of my second book, Stinky Rotten Threats. It is on the back seat between us.

“Isn’t that your picture? Why is it there?”

I smile. When I am with this young man, my intention is to focus on him. My successes, failures, and mundane trips to the doctor or post office don’t come up. He probably assumes I don’t pretend to pilot a plane without knowing what an instrument panel is. However, other than stocking the refrigerator with his favorite cheese and hot sauce, he wouldn’t know what else fills my day.

“This is what I do, buddy. I write. This is my second book.” (The first was The Curse Under the Freckles.)

“Wow,” he says flipping through the pages without looking at them. “It must have taken you more than an hour and a half.”

Dakota’s notion of numbers and time hasn’t developed yet. I realize I want world change overnight, in my spirit, even if my head knows a sudden transformation is as impossible as writing a middle-grade fantasy adventure in an hour and a half. The Star League Chronicles fights evil—not with fists and swords, but with truth. Even in make-believe, a story takes more than one page for goodness to win.

“Two years,” I answer. “It took me two years.”

He doesn’t say anything, but I suspect he thinks I must be mighty slow.

I don’t mind. Slow is the general idea. My neck thanks me. Growing up all the way isn’t recommended anyway.

 

 

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Sometimes the best wisdom and advice comes through the simple purity of a child. They don’t see the world as complicated as adults do. (Nishan Panwar)

Dakota and I set up a ramp for his cars in the living room. Since the action tends to include a lot of collision and upside-down accidents, an on-site mechanic becomes necessary. I have the six-year old man for the job.

While his work is magically quick, he doesn’t have a concept of money yet. His bill for removing a nail in my vehicle’s tire is $300. True, the bill includes a heart and secret code, DN. Dependable NASCAR grease monkey? I don’t ask. The F and heart placed together definitely don’t require mentioning. Besides, Dakota accepts invisible cash.

Later, we take turns as airplane pilot. The plane is the couch. Take-off begins in recliner mode. Believable or not, I’ll take it.

“How far are we going this trip, captain?” I ask.

“Twenty miles,” he answers. “And it will take twenty hours.”

“Okay,” I reply, then call back to our ever-changing number of passengers to buckle their seatbelts. My belly laugh remains inside, saved for later. For now, levity heals any lingering abdominal pain.

“I love you, little buddy,” I finally get a chance to say. He doesn’t need to answer back. His grin is enough response. I’ll go back to grownup mode in a few hours—with just a little bit more energy to face the ugly places.

 

 

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There is always more goodness in the world than there appears to be, because goodness is of its very nature modest and retiring. (Evelyn Beatrice Hall, biographer, 1868-1956) 

Since I have three granddaughters, stuffed animals, dolls, and plastic dishes rule our toy room. Dakota needs some male space. We go to a local discount store to find the first installment on a transition toward a more balanced collection. I can’t afford renovation. Gradual change is more fun for a little person anyway because our one male child is in on it.

As Dakota places his five-dollar car purchase on the counter, he smiles. The cashier responds. “Okay if I give you a hug?”

My little guy looks confused, his eyes searching his hairline, but he accepts the quick squeeze. He has no idea how much charm he emanates. Since I am present, I suspect he knows the cashier’s gesture is okay.

Dakota and I arrive home and create a mini traffic world. Up and down the grass outside, on the rug in the living room. Life is contained and uncomplicated—at least for a while.

Later, I smile as I think about how fortunate I am that this little man came into my life—a future step grandson.

The news repeats the same stories in an endless loop. Rationalizations for maintaining the status quo continue. The word change becomes a platitude, no more than a vague promise hidden behind plans for the wealthy to grow richer and stronger.

The world needs more than any one voice to discover answers. Argument is counterproductive. The world could use more people who give a gosh-darn for more than themselves. Political motivation gets in the way. Forget party affiliation; look at what is happening to human beings—everywhere. Simple, not easy.

In the meantime, beauty lives hidden within places that keep the spirit alive. In the nonjudgmental acceptance of a child, in the presence of each day, in genuine friendship, in the ability to continue to give.

Peace, upon all.

My little man likes to clean. He is cleaning our coffee table and dusting pictures.

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I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”   (Kurt Vonnegut)

No point putting my socks back on—my feet are covered with sand—from my son’s backyard sandbox. Yes, this senior citizen has been playing with dump trucks and plastic buckets. I follow the lead of my favorite kindergartner, Dakota.

He asks about what kind of work both my husband and I have done, and what I do now.

I state as simply as possible the jobs we had in young-person language. “I write books now.”

“Sounds boring.” He rams a motorcycle over a sand ramp. A wheel falls off. He grins as he clicks it back on.

I suppose when an individual’s written vocabulary is limited to one and two-syllable words, it could be. My granddaughter Ella has been reading since she was four. Different interests.

But, I don’t say anything. I let his opinion stand and heap a plastic shovel of packed sand into the next project, a castle. The building lasts almost three seconds before Dakota smashes it and turns it into something else. Another truck obstacle.

At age six, the pretend world is always in progress.

Next, he introduces me to a new Wii game. I have no aptitude for sports in the tangible world. On the flat screen, my lack reaches a new low.

“Well, I guess you win again,” I say.

We are ready to go outside for more activity, and he takes my hand. A gentle gesture. Dakota is considerate. I mentioned once today as I swung an invisible baseball bat, that I was thirsty and he ran to get me water, with ice. He also wanted to wash dishes, but left the big knife for me. A smart decision.

By tomorrow, my at-home to-do list will be too long to fit on the side of a mile-long wall. Those tasks will wait. Today I spend time with a young gentleman who doesn’t care about what I can or what I can’t do. He knows I care a lot about him, and he cares a lot about me. We are family, and that is all that matters.

You are right, Mr. Vonnegut. If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

(photo-shopped public domain photo)

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The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. (Albert Einstein)

Ella leads our play and I follow: trick or treat, hide and seek, happy birthday in multiple forms—bunny’s fifth birthday and mine. Ella plays the role of Daddy; I am Daughter. I ask how old I am today. The reply? Seventy. In the make-believe world, the next obvious question has an unknown answer. It doesn’t matter.

While my spirit keeps up with the imagination of my granddaughter, my bones don’t. My lower back aches. But, I don’t tell Ella. Later, when her daddy and Grandpa come back from their errands I will put heat on the complaining area. For now, I will move a tad slower.

Then, I notice the microwave announcing my food is ready. I didn’t put anything in it. My bed buddy is warm.

Ella admits she did it. She shows me how she placed the fabric-covered bag of rice inside and hit Express. “For your back.”

How did she know? And get this warmed for me so quickly? During hide and seek?

Ella goes to the toy room and grabs the box of bandages. She places a strip inches from the most annoying area. Comforting heat relieves the discomfort in my back. I sit leaned against the chalkboard on the floor in the room with the toys as we play.

“You are amazing, Ella. How did you know my back hurt?”

“And your throat, too.”

My hiatal hernia has enlarged and burned the inside of my throat. Not a problem I would share with a child of any age.

Ella’s Down syndrome may have affected her muscle tone and other areas of her development. However, she has been reading phonetically for several years. Her intuition is beyond exceptional. She is a blessing in my life.

I’m not sure she knows how to explain how she understands what most people of any age would never recognize. To me, the answer is a mystery. For her, she is simply being Ella.

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The world may think you are only one person. But to one person, you may be their world. (Author Unknown)

My recovering fractured right hand failed as I was browning chicken to oven fry. I dropped the meat into oil and splattered searing hot drops onto my left wrist. Ella sees the gauzed area and wants to make it better. Now. My skin is red, with a few ready-to-pop blisters. I keep the injury covered because I don’t want my granddaughter to see it. And worry.

I turn the situation into play and call on Ella as a pretend Doc McStuffins, the Disney character. Since I have a box of miscellaneous bandages that have the lasting adhesive power of glue left uncapped for at least a year, I don’t mind if Ella uses them.

“Don’t look,” she says as she gets a slightly twisted bandage ready. She gives me an invisible shot. And I promise her I’m not going to cry.

Within minutes I have plastic strips on my hands, arms, and legs. Doc Ella McStuffins is thorough. She wraps her healing around the wrist of a small doll.

“One more thing,” she announces.  She presses the last strip in place on my arm. Then, she kisses the final bandaged surface.

My playroom rug holds a mound of empty bandage wrappers. Ella’s heart, however, is far from empty. I am blessed to be inside it. She is inside mine as well.

 

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Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous. (Albert Einstein)

Ella is excited. We are meeting her daddy for lunch. Even in play she lowers her voice as she goes off to an imaginary workplace. She is the daddy. He is her introduction to words—she has been reading for several years now. He is her fun. Daddy makes her laugh and lets her know she is important, no matter how many challenges she needs to overcome. 

Two uncles are joining us. An all-around special day. The uncles have taken a wrong turn and need directions, so Daddy steps outside to help them by phone. Ella sees a man, alone, waiting for a table.

“Hi,” she says, and within minutes the man has a friend.

The talk seems general at first, as Ella chats about Daddy, chicken and fries, and games. I join in, obviously pleased with my granddaughter. Then the man shows us a picture on his phone of his twenty-five-year-old son.

Like our granddaughter, he has Down syndrome.

I ask about him and get a mini version of his journey, yet never learn either of their names. They are gifts Ella found—or intuited. I don’t know. I’d like to learn more, gather father and son as friends, treasures. Instead the moment becomes a single valuable pearl to savor and remember.

Sometimes higher ranked gifts come wrapped in an innocent hello, meant to be passed on—as far as possible, into the lives of other people.

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