Three Hours with a Nearly Three-Year-Old Girl
June 9, 2018, a day of sun and storm, the Sparrows Point waterfront lush from two months of almost daily rain.
Emma will be three soon.
Her head comes up just past my knee and her brass-colored hair is piled high after Mommy brushed it.
Her eyes are big and expressive, her mouth small and pensive and her energy such that it makes this old man feel like mortals speed up every time I crack the lid on my coffin.
Her shirt is pink, with white lettering reading HERSEY PERSEY.
Her shorts are pink with white trim.
Her shoes are those hideous knit rubber-banded things that Velcro on—pink of course.
Adventurers do not always dot every i and cross every t, so one might forgive our adventurette for putting her shoes on the wrong feet and having to stop, snarling to get them each to their proper foot.
One grandfather is in Heaven, the other in Hell and daddy has found a new drug—made in a former Soviet Republic—guaranteed to cure him of his addictions to opiates, cocaine, Suboxone, Ambien, lithium, Xanax and at least one other reality buffer I surely cannot spell either.
So Unx Yim is on deck as HERSEY PERSEY bodyguard.
Off to the steamship playground with Mommy and Mum Mum, for teenagers have destroyed the apartment playground.
The steel wire and plastic playground, set in a quarter acre of wood chips outlined by railroad ties, is quite a workout for Unx Yim and Emma is determined to master it, despite lacking the reach and strength for some parts of the design made for 8-year-old bodies. I hold her when necessary, offer a hand when she asks, stand close enough to grab her when she waves me off to conquer the next step and otherwise behave like the crusty castle Steward for a young princess.
A 4-year-old boy, well knit and athletic in his soccer uniform, shows up with an escort, a man who does not appear related by blood, other than the Irish look of both. The man is nearly 30 with easily $20K in ink on his wiry frame and a $500 smart phone to which he is wedded like Saruman to his palantir, hypnotized but polite as we say hello. For an hour more Emma and I play, the man ignoring the boy who keeps looking jealously at Emma and me. I hear from snatches of conversation that a parent will be coming to pick him up. All I hear is “your…ther” whether mother or father I do not know. The man is kind to the boy in his dismissive way as he peers ever deeper into his phone…
Emma takes a break and dances on the adjacent field with Mum Mum, who is teaching her dance steps and songs. In the meantime, as Mommy makes her grocery list on the bench, I did pull ups and pushups and stretches on the bars. Unable to get the attention of his chaperone, the boy sees that I am not occupied with Emma and leaps at the chance to show off, selecting all of the portions of the ship-themed monkey bar and catwalk maze that Emma had difficulty with and tearing across the course, spending one of every three steps or handholds looking at me, to make certain someone was witness to his ability to navigate the uncaring world.
His hair was bronze in the sun and I waved goodbye to him when we pulled off.
We go to the auto supply store and the supermarket and then stop by the snowball stand for a treat. Emma was utterly horrified at my “a broccoli snowball, yuk!” which I did not bother explaining to her was diet spearmint and found out the next morning that Emma was right after a sense, as the snowball acted on me as if I had eaten a blender full of broccoli.
Back at the apartment Emma wants to explore the near world, around the corner and out of sight of Mum Mum on the porch. We start out with some ‘ombie tag, with Emma as the ‘ombie, which gives me a chance to work on my pivots and triangle steps. I am informed the that she will have a “Hallaween birfday” and that I will be the werewolf and must keep the gampires away from her cake. Looking at my Duke Nukem sleeveless shirt from some 20 years ago, she points in disapproval at his faded image and wags her finger imperiously, “No Wankenstein!”
She then takes a drink of juice back at Mum Mum Base Camp and points to the chokecherry tree which she wishes to investigate. The chokecherries on the ground have been gotten to by birds and she wants me to hold her up so she can inspect unplucked versions. The resulting sprig and berry sample must be taken back to Mum Mum.
What follows is a mania of gathering. Where my sons spent their toddling years gathering weapon materials and reinventing the knife, spear and club and hunting and herding bugs and yard critters, Emma is all about the plants, off on a quest for berries and flowers.
The little flowers down the way are described by color as she walks around on the stained four-by-fours that line the flower bed.
A neatly trimmed hedge earns her attention until a mosquito lands on her wrist and the hedge is declared a “gampire bush,” and we beat a hasty retreat.
Another chokecherry tree is almost too high for her to reach, but I grab her by the hips and she manages to grab a sample sprig and berry.
A cat lounges on a small hammock in a window and she stops and wonders at its golden eyes.
A third chokecherry tree is too high. Across the lot where the buzzards nest in the nighted treetops, the mulberries at the woods’ edge are too wet and stain her hands and arm and knee and she requests an airlift over the intervening puddle to civilization—the land of flowers and concrete paths.
She begins her toddling run, part hop, part stride, part dance step, part questioning foot, her hands waggling up around her shoulders and ears in an ecstasy of rediscovery. Within a few yards she finds, stops, points and says, “My flowers,” as she stands beneath a raised flower bed, which is home to a deep-green leafed hydrangea about a yard wide, round and festooned with balls of opening buds, white, frost, pink, yellow and purple. Emma holds out her hand and takes mine so she can use it as a pull assist to step up on the two-foot bed. She then waves away my hand and does her balance-beam walk all around the woodchip flowerbed.
Having satisfied herself that she can come and go as she pleases, she stepped gingerly down into the bed and approached the bush which hulked before her like I would stand before an SUV and stalked closer, obviously conscious that she was visiting a living thing and pointed at the flowers, “See, Yim, it okay to sniff—no bees to sting,” and leaned forward delicately and sniffed first one flower ball, then another, and another until they had all been scented. Satisfied after some minutes, she looked coyly over her shoulder at me, smiled, “Booiful, no pick—my flowers.”
She then held out her hand and I took it, stepping around the planter housing with her as she leaped two feet down into a squat, and with a curled lip of determination ran for the porch to deliver the news that the flowers smell nice, a somewhat dead thing following her, wondering if he would ever share such a moment with the world again.
(c) 2018 James LaFond