About a month ago my little two year old neighbor, Antonio, pushed his stroller-bike over to the fence and climbed his way to freedom. Lured over by the prospect of playing ball with Toby and Ruby, he came for the dogs, but stayed for the Otter Pops. Since that time, he has come over for a few visits. Sometimes he brings his mom along, but a lot of the time he just mills around near the fence that separates our yards, hoping that someone will reach over and pick him up. Thankfully, he has caught on that he can just ask to come over rather than furtively stealing away from his mother. This goes a long way in alleviating my fears of being arrested for kidnapping when the amber alert goes out or, even worse, coming home to find his lifeless form sprawled on the patio, because he fell during an escape attempt and bounced his little head on the concrete. Yes, this new arrangement is far preferable.
While I think the impetus for the original visit was simply to play ball with the dogs, the visits have now developed a bit of a routine. First, he and Ruby enjoy a game of fetch. When that is done, he heads for the back door, ushers everyone inside, then heads straight for the kitchen to cool off with an otter pop. If we don't have otter pops, he roots around for another suitable snack, then takes it outside to sit at the table on the deck. There he plays with the cat treat jar, which plays truly obnoxious recordings of "What's New Pussycat" and "Stray Cat Strut" when you open the lid. "What's New Pussycat", especially, results in the boy engaging in copious butt dancing in his chair. It is such a simple thing, but due to the level of joy with which it is infused, it becomes really entertaining to watch. Not only that, but it's infectious.
The truth is that my little friend is fun to have around, because he is so happy. It takes so little to make him laugh. The right song, the right color popsicle and his face breaks into a broad grin. It's difficult to be in a bad mood around someone with such a zest for life. He reminds me of all the important things we forget as we grow up:
- If something makes him happy, he doesn't worry about being a dork. He just smiles for all the world to see.
- If a song so inspires him, he gets down with his bad self, shaking his groove thing with wild abandon.
- When he wants something, he says so, because his hope is unsquelchable.
- If he wants to do something, he does it without bothering to worry about whether he's doing it "right", because he is too busy enjoying himself.
-When he doesn't like something, he says so.
- He expresses himself, but bears no grudges.
- And most important of all, when he loves someone, he doesn't worry about how they will respond, he just loves thems.
When I look at him, I think of all the things I have spent my life studying, learning, reading and experiencing in the hope of finding some purpose to life. And here is this little sage who didn't even exist three years ago and he seems to have all the big, important stuff down. What a crazy existence it is that the older we get, the further we seem to get from each other; ourselves.
Since I was cut from the reedbed, I have made this crying sound.
Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say.
Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back.
-Rumi (via Coleman Barks)