“Is it that they fear the pain of death, or could it be they fear the joy of life?”
~Toad the Wet Sprocket, Pray Your Gods
“She’s always filthy!” Jenny told me about her sister, Amelia, as she stood on the sidewalk outside my car. I was reading when she knocked on my window and insisted that I talk to her, a stranger.
Filthy. That was a grown up word if ever I heard one.
“Maybe she never looks in a mirror?” She looked at me as if to say, “Why would she need to? She has me.”
I had a few questions of my own for Miss four-and-three-quarters-Jenny.
“You don’t get filthy?” I asked her, noticing breakfast crumbs on her cheeks and all around her mouth.
That was a silly question if ever she heard one.
“My boys put on their bathing suits whenever it rains and swim in the mud puddle in front of our house. When they’re done they have to be hosed down outside. You could do that!”
I’d offended her sensibilities with that suggestion.
She had to process it while I looked through the pebbles that 2-yr.old Amelia (the “filthy” one) held up to me. She’d been digging in the driveway and was thrilled with her treasures. I chose the blue one and she left her sister and me to continue our conversation after accepting a hug from Jenny.
“Oh, no! I’m scared of hoses!” Turns out she’s scared of buckets of water, too.
How can you be four and three-quarters and be afraid of dirt, sand, and water, but not afraid to talk to me?
“Go use the bathroom, Jenny,” her mother called.
“I don’t need to,” answered Jenny, turning back to me.
“Why do you have patterns on your seat?” she asked, awed by the zebra print seats and steering wheel cover.
“They were supposed to be pink and fuzzy, but I like them. Don’t you like them?” Her eyes got big and she nodded even though she seemed unable to figure out why they were there.
“My favorite color is PINK!! And Amelia (who’d popped up at my window again with new pebbles to show me) loves PURPLE!” Amelia beamed. Seemed to be a pattern: when Jenny was happy Amelia’s smile was triggered.
“Jenny, it’s a long trip. I’m going to leave you here if you don’t go to the bathroom right now!”
She raced inside, our conversation ended. Her mom followed her and Amelia, adorned with a diaper, kept digging and looking at fistfuls of rocks. Then I heard the little-girl whining that escalated to screaming when Jenny realized that her mother had gone outside to finish packing the car for their hour+ ride back to Boston. (I learned a lot from Jenny during our 10 minute talk.)
Four-and-three-quarters-Jenny truly believed that she was going to be left behind and was torn between closing the bathroom door and running outside to make sure her mother was waiting for her. A battle of words, followed by calming reassurances ensued.
“Maybe I’ll see you next year!” I said to a tear-stricken face walking past my car to hers. “And you’ll be five!”
“Yeah!” she brightened. “Or maybe I’ll be even older!”
Amelia followed her sister, dropping the pebbles that were contraband for the car and their house in Boston.
They’d both be a lot older next year.
Of that I was sure.