Monday, February 9, 2009

Joys Of Life

I reached into my upper coat pocket the other day, felt a piece of paper there, and pulled it out, wondering what it was. It was a grocery list I had had while visiting my sister a couple weeks ago. But why would a grocery list give me an instant grin like that? Well, it had something to do with one of the edges, now dry but still shredded, from when my one-year-old nephew had chewed on it while I had pushed him along in the grocery cart at the store. What's funny, too, is I had no idea what he was doing at the time. As I recall, he had reached out for the paper and I had absent-mindedly handed it over. Within minutes, he had the paper soaked and shredded. He is a diligent, focused little guy.

Looking at the piece of paper two days ago, I smiled and felt sad all together. I don't live near him so my visits, though often, are not daily, or weekly, or even monthly. With young children, that consistent contact is so important. As they mature, a phone call works to keep in touch. But the little ones - they love instantly and then are left to wonder at the absence of the person that they have just chosen to love. Truth be told, though, my sister and her husband encompass my nephew with such a sense of love and safety that it is likely that only my heart breaks when it comes time for my visits to end. His heart is fine. This is my fervent wish.

While I was there this last time, and after the grocery store incident, we spontaneously came up with a clapping game. It's the best way to describe it. It evolved when he flipped his hands together and I imitated him. He looked, laughed, studied me. Then he flipped his hands back and forth again, and I imitated him. Well, now, this was magic (I think he thought). If I just do something silly with my hands, I can get this lady with the blonde hair to do it too. This game we played off and on for days. My sis even got it on video. What I loved - absolutely loved - is how he would laugh after each time that he got me to "clap." He laughs like a waterfall, I told my sister. It sounds just like a waterfall....

We played this other game too that I called "Monster." I would growl like a monster and crawl towards him on all fours while he ran to his mom on the couch. Then he would come towards me as I turned my back to him and moved away (pretending that I didn't see him) and then he would just get wide-eyed and giggle and run to his mom as I turned back around to growl and chase after him again. My sister said that the look on his face as he ran to her was one of sheer terror and joy all wrapped up into one. This we did for long periods of time. It required my sister to stay sitting and anchored at the couch so he had a safe place to go when I started chasing him again.

And he is the sweetest kid. We decided to show him the Bollinger family tradition of watching a football game on a Sunday. It was the Sunday that the Eagles were playing the Cardinals for the NFC championship. That was why we went to the grocery store, in fact - to buy chips, hamburger patties, hotdogs etc. As I wheeled my nephew around in the grocery cart (and he, apparently, chewed on the grocery list), I kept telling him how exciting the day was going to be. He understood none of it, other than my sheer joy and anticipation. But he gets this idea of joy, so he laughed and got excited too. Oh, and I spelled out "Eagles" for him, too, in true Philadelphia-fan form. ("E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!"). I had a convert.

Now, here's the thing. After the Eagles lost (so sad, so sad), and my level of joy had greatly diminished, and we were all eating dinner.... my sister said, "He's trying to cheer you up." I looked up, and it was true. This little boy was swinging his head around, looking goofy, making silly faces, just to get me to smile. And here he was, just 14 months old. What an amazing capacity for compassion he has. I smiled - truly smiled - and he grinned back. He had done it. He had gotten that funny blonde lady to be happy again.

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