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Saturday, July 17, 2010


Tonight I am thinking about verbs.  It all started because our family was walking down a small-town sidewalk this evening...

Except walking only describes what we grown-ups were doing.

The children were doing something else entirely.

It began as meandering along.  Despite the big floppy hat half-obscuring the little-one's view there were constant pauses to ogle the brightly colored trinkets in store fronts and comment on them.  The slow wandering and people-watching was punctuated by energetic leaping, straight up, so that taut fingers could skim the summery flags that decorated doorways.

Every so often, we would happen upon a sculpture or a large rock or a bench, and then sit was required. Unless climb and clamor seemed a better option.

When we got to crosswalks, it was impossible simply to cross while walking.  We had to hold hands and leap from one painted white line to the next. Or skip.

All the merchandise in front of stores required touching, and not just a tentative poke either, but a full on exploratory caress.

All the restaurant patio bands required dancing.

All the raised planters had to be treaded as tightropes, and the lines in the sidewalk had to be hurdled.

The three-foot-tall flip flop on display at the shoe store had to be tried on--both as a shoe and as a cape. Obviously.

While the adults on the streetscape moved forward at a regular pace, my children careened around.  Even holding ice cream cones that dripped incessantly in the humid air of hot summer evening, they did not sit still.  They snuggled up next to us on the bench, then stood up to gesticulate better with their cones, crossed the sidewalk, hunkered down in the shade behind a planter, mugged for the camera with their sticky, creamy grins, stood up again, dashed off a few feet, laughing, wiggled their way into the corner of a doorway...all the while licking, and splattering, and crunching and relishing their strawberry ice creams as if they had never had ice cream before in their lives.

I marvel at them.

Not just at their ability to move through a landscape with such effortless energy, but at their ability to change tracks constantly. Walk, skip, touch, pause, stare, dash, hold close, break away, leap, wander, flit, wait, smile, climb, squat, run...every few feet down the sidewalk, they changed their mode of moving.

Children, I suddenly registered tonight, move through their worlds with all of their senses vibrating. The sight of a fluttering flag moves their limbs to leaping; an ant I would not have noticed stills them in an instant.

They see possibility in every object they encounter. Something in them asks, "Can this be climbed? Swung upon? Jumped over? Touched? How would it feel if I leaned into it? Dragged my fingers along it? Dipped my toe into it? What would happen if I hugged it? Licked it? Wore it? Can I lift this? Smell it? Chase it?" And then they try these things.

Generally, they do not pause for more than a beat or two to register the sensation before they are moving again. Off to discover a new way to combine see, smell, hear, touch and taste into a balancing act of dizzying sensory magic. It is as if the cacophony of their movement trains them in understanding the world.

We finished our walk at the base of a bright orange sculpture of an abstract family, savoring the sensation of lying flat on our backs in the spongy turf, and admiring the half-pizza moon gleaming in the violet sky. I could have lain like that for an hour, content in my stretched relaxing.  The children lingered for two or three minutes, and then were off again. Running, climbing, laughing, competing, pressing their cheeks into the sun-warmed orange metal people, wiggling their bare toes in the soft prickles of grass.

Living large in their small bodies.

It is a mode I have outgrown. Grown-ups, I think, tend to live small in their large bodies.

But tomorrow, I promise myself, I will skip my way somewhere.


Marinka said...

It's amazing what children remind us of--the things that we swore that we'd never forget.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I love "living large in their small bodies." Sometimes when I feel particularly good about life - in the moment I mean - there is this sensation of being bigger, like something that can't be contained within my own skin - and I always connect this to how it felt to be young. So yeah - living large in a small body sums that up perfectly for me.

cindy said...

Well, I always connect this to how it felt to be young. So yeah!

Kelley @ magnetoboldtoo said...

It is because kids just don't care about how they look to others with all of their clambering and jumping and skipping.

WE should be so free.

Carry said...

Well, living large in a small body sums that up perfectly for me. Anyways, Nice share!


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