Sunday, October 07, 2007

"And then I wasn't shy"

We were on an after dinner walk. Maia was riding her bike, and we had made our way to the street below us, a quiet, level one, good for riding bikes. It's our turnaround.

That Saturday--September 8th, about a month ago now--had been very full. We had taken her bike to Manoa park because she had wanted to practice riding it.

The park is co-located with Manoa Elementary School. The park doesn't usually have many children, and this day was no exception. Perhaps that is what has begun to attract her to that park. She would rather be in an empty park than in one full of stares.

There was a boy there, riding his Razor scooter. Kristina and I had come upon him first. We had gotten ahead of Maia because she had wanted to ride her bike down a fairly long incline into a basketball court, and we had gone down to check it out.

"Come," I motioned to her. She had seen the boy by now.

She shook her head. "Come," I motioned again, but she shook her head. She pointed to her ear.

"She doesn't want him to see it," Kristina said.

Reluctantly, we walked back to her.

"Maia, you can't let your ear hold you back. Maybe he's a nice boy, and you would have fun with him. If you don't try, you'll never know."

But she wasn't interested in a philosophical discussion.

We made our way back through the outdoor hallways of the school towards the climbing structures and monkey bars on the playground. But the boy had seen Maia, now, and was trailing us back there.

Maia kept a wary eye on him. But he was quicker on his scooter than she was on her bike. When she saw that he was about to overtake her, she stopped her bike and put her hand up to cover her ear.

"Maia, what are you trying to do? Hide it?"

"Talking on the telephone," she said. "Hello, my ear, my broken ear!" she said, tickled, now, by her own artifice.

The boy passed her, and Maia took a side path to the playground. Then she saw that he had turned and was headed towards us.

She abandoned her bike and hurried on to the climbing structure. She staked out a spot by the monkey bars, and the boy soon joined us, at the other end of the structure.

Maia has gotten very good at monkey bars and had no trouble making the circuit.

The boy was on a second set of monkey bars.

He couldn't manage it, but he was game and good humored about it.

"I can't do it," he confessed.

"Where's his Mommy?" Maia asked me.

"I don't know, Sweetness. Why don't you ask him?"

And so she did, and so they began to play. His name was Aaron, and he was in third grade.

Aaron soon left to get back on his scooter.

Maia followed, but she was stuck, or so she claimed--the training wheels on her bike were lodged in a seam in the sidewalk. The gallant Aaron came back to give her a push to get her out of it.

After that, they were just a blur of motion. Aaron had figured out a path around the gym, the basketball court and the adjoining school building, and they raced each other around it. Sometimes Aaron came out ahead,

and sometimes Maia did.

They had a great time. When we gathered to say our goodbyes at the end of the morning, Maia and Aaron were very comfortable with each other.

In fact, if a 5 year old can be said to flirt, Maia was flirting for all she was worth.

I was thinking about Aaron that evening when Maia were on our after-dinner walk.

"Maia, there's something I want to tell you," I said. "There's nothing wrong with your ear. It's just different."

That struck a chord with her. They had been talking about differences among people in school.

"Like hair, and eyes, and skin," she said.

"Yes," I agreed. "Just like that."

"Today, I was shy with that boy," she said. "And then I played with him. And then I wasn't shy."

"Yes, Sweetness. You remember that."

John, Sunday, October 7, 2007


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