Where I am at, the leaves are turning.
Dressed in shades of dark rusty reds, oranges and yellows, they pirouette through the air, rustling softly, falling gracefully. I watch the leaves float gently
…only to be snatched out of the air by a pair of small hands.
I had not noticed that I was not alone. Enveloped in the cool shade of a large tree, it was only the interruption of a leaf that had landed on the page I was reading that made me lift my eyes to observe the falling of the leaves around me.
I hadn’t seen the child playing on the sunlit grass. It almost hurt my eyes to look directly at her. Dancing around the park in glee, she had sunlight dancing on her hair, reflecting itself onto facets of the park. It looked like brilliance.
She looked like brilliance.
I wondered, how did she make autumn akin to summer?
It was a sunny day, but it was by no means a warm day. The chill had been enough to nip at the leaves, releasing them from their boughs.
Nevertheless, I could almost feel the warmth emanating from this picturesque scene. Almost.
As sudden as she had started, the child stopped dancing. My heart felt like it skipped a beat when she did. The reason being she had spotted a squirrel.
I almost laughed aloud at the somberness she conducted herself in, approaching the squirrel as one would approach a tiger. Edging stealthily across the grass. She had come within a foot of the squirrel without scaring it off. At that moment, the creature was frozen in its place, poised for escape at any instant. Slowly reaching into her pockets, she drew out a crumbly biscuit and was moving to place it onto the ground. Her eyes battled against the squirrel’s; neither one refusing to look away. All seemed to be going well, until she stepped on a twig, startling the squirrel into the bushes.
Shrugging prettily, the child went on unperturbed, continuing to indulge herself in her own world.
This feeling welled up inside of me then. How was it possible that she could move on so easily? Why does it seem that the older I get, the more difficult it is to move on from past mistakes? I caught myself then; she had made no mistake here. Was that the difference? Did I always make mistakes? Were circumstantial coincidences my fault too?
Oh, what I would give to be a child again.
Life had been so much simpler then. It was all before we learned the lessons of how much we had to lose. It was a time before we were responsible for our actions. It was a time before we knew to differentiate between the good and the bad. A time before we learned of hurt and loss and grief. A time before we learned of lies. A time before we learned of the cruel lengths people would go to, to achieve what they wanted. It was a time before materialism.
Most of all, it was a time when we were satisfied with nothing. A time when we had nothing and were happy.
The simple greeting snapped me out of my reverie.
The child stood before me, head cocked to one side, staring at me.
“Hello,” I replied, feeling as if I had been caught red-handed, although for what exactly I did not know. “What is your name?” I ventured.
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t hurt you.”
“I wouldn’t hurt you.” He had said, “I would never raise a hand to you.”
And I believed him.
I looked at my outstretched hand and dropped it abruptly. The child stared at me, wide-eyed and surprised by the sudden movement.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m okay now.” I smiled to reassure the child whose brows had knitted together with worry. I attempted to smoothen out her frown with my fingers – an action that made her laugh delightedly. Then we both fell silent.
“Your lips are really red, like Snow White. It’s pretty,” she observed after a moment, her eyes roaming across my face.
“My lips are not really this red. I’m wearing lipstick,” I replied laughing, surprised at the brazenness of the child.
“Can I have some? I want to look like Snow White too.”
I could hardly imagine that her mother would appreciate another woman smearing lipstick on her child. So I said, “It’s something only grown-ups wear, sweetheart.”
She looked disappointed. “I wish I was a grown-up.”
That really hit me.
If only she could know that all the lipsticks and high heels in the world were not worth the tainting of adulthood. If only I could tell her just how often I wished I were a child again. And if only she knew how precious it was to hold on to that innocence. It is a purity that is irreparable once tainted. It is an ink stain that blossoms like a flower. When watered, it reaches out its tentacles to further corrupt and it is an ink stain that never seems to dry. Always ready to absorb and expand.
So I said the only thing I could say to her.
“One day, you will be grown-up.”
Image is ‘Ink Stain‘ by Crazthonfry on deviantART.