Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Like We'd Never Been Apart

A couple weeks before the holiday break, one of our two-year-olds found both of our swings occupied. After a couple minutes of failing to persuade the children using them to make way for her, she made a show of hanging her head. Judging by her expression, she didn't seem particularly heartbroken, but her body sure sold it. She walked over to a short flight of stairs and took a seat, head still low.

I said, "E is sad."

There was a brief pause before she looked up with me wearing the biggest, cheesiest smile she could muster. 

I said, "E is happy!" She laughed, then immediately hung her head again. "Aw," I responded, "E is sad." She beamed at me again. "E is happy!" She hung her head, "Aw, E is sad." We did this over and over, in the familiar A-B-A-B rhythm of a game of peek-a-boo. Before long other two-year-olds began to gather around, then one of them, after having made sufficient study of how the game worked, joined E on the stairs, hanging her head in the same dramatic fashion. Then another joined them and then another until there was a half dozen of them playing along. I was naming each of them by name, saying "sad" and "happy."

After a time, one of the "happy" children spontaneously ran to the bottom of the hill. I said, "J is running down the hill." With that they all ran. Not in a single rush, but one-at-a-time, cautiously navigating the concrete stairs before accelerating on the wood chip covered slope. When two-year-olds run toward me in a group like that on their unstable legs, carrying those head-heavy bodies over uneven terrain, I often think it looks a like a scene from a movie entitled The Day of the Toddler Zombies. They come at you impossibly slowly, yet relentlessly, staggering, stumbling, falling, but always coming toward you, except instead of eating your brain, they want a hug. 

In this case, however, they were running away from me, their arms flailing for balance, their short chubby legs and be-diapered bottoms working for balance. Most of them seemed to be just on the edge of being out-of-control, pell-mell even, but when they came to the bottle-neck between the playground garden and the uprights for the art area awning, they managed to adjust their speeds to queue up like cars merging together on a narrowing freeway.

We played the happy-sad-run game for a good 20 minutes, a game that ultimately came to include at one point as many as a dozen kids. Then we played it the next day and the next, right up to the holiday break. Yesterday, our first day back, after taking some time to re-orient, E returned to her spot on the stairs, saying to me, "Say I'm sad," and our game, this game that is one of the seeds of "us," began again like we'd never been apart.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very sweet. Wonderful.