Monday, May 23, 2011

For the forever babysitters

His face is the window to the galaxy of five years and older siblings and a brown chocolate lab and babysitters and pirates in dragon-filled lagoons. And he remembers the worlds we built in his backyard last summer, in between trees and behind the house and by drawing in water with our fingers the treasure map. And he climbs up into my lap and settles there, remembering also that I am big and old and a student, and that I can read books to him and tell him stories.

When he smiles it lights the room, and I smile because he is smiling. We watch Playmobile Egypt and Victorian mansion videos. We laugh because somehow his Max & Ruby video is in French of all things, and that's just so silly! And I am floored again and again because he makes everything in my world that seems so desperately important... evaporate, and I laugh at the things that are funny, and I look serious at the serious problems, and I stare down dragons and listen close to what he whispers into my ear.

Today I had the privilege of being taught how to color. I sat across from my five year old friend, his face puckered in concentration, drawing careful racing lines, asking more than once how to spell "racer" and asking each time I got up to get post-its and a red pen where I was going. "Hil-a-wy, are you comin' back?" and each time I'd say, "Yes, I'll be right back."

And when I was told to close my eyes, because he was drawing a picture for me, I scribbled quickly these words:

This is the beauty of a forever babysitter, when you obey a child because it is time to be one again. When you say, in the presence of this small one, all I strive for and covet and envy in my green heart, it melts like August popsicles under his warm weight in my lap. And the not-realized things, the disappointments, the waiting, and all of it vanishes in the too-real moment of existing.

And when I opened my eyes he explained each picture drawn in Mom's pen like Van Gogh at his easel. "You can use the back to make your own picture, Hil-a-wy." He offered the paper like a wise man to Mary. And so I grabbed a broken crayon from the box between us and I tried to draw a hill, some flowers and maybe a tree spreading its branches to a yellow and orange sun. And he piped up in his unabashed way, "No, Hil-a-wy! You need to use a pen!"

My lines were wobbly and imprecise, and he saw it. And the solution was offered in his small hands like the simplest and most profound gift: a pen. Draw with a pen. Stick your tongue out while you press the ink into the paper, and then use your red and green and yellow and blue crayons to color in and outside your lines.

Today I was taught how to color. How to hold a pen and draw without taking it back. How to draw my lines in solid black ink and how to explain my pictures like I am Monet at his easel. And the big blue eyes looked back at me as I drew, and suddenly the things that seem heaviest evaporated, and the things we can't grasp, that we can only trace softly through the air as they pass by, those moments of gift sunk deep into the morning.

This is the beauty of a forever babysitter. That we are humbled by the children we meet, that we know as if by accident how to listen for their secret wisdom, their weight, their special kind of gravity. We are taught and retaught how to color. We learn to finger paint and eat goldfish and laugh at the jokes and tuck little arms and legs into bed and tie shoes. We peek into their imaginations and find that for a moment, our own disbelief is suspended. We become pirates and racers and queens and detectives. We are inscribed with their blessing.

And when he left this afternoon, he flung his arms around me with a hug and a big kiss, and I know that for the forever babysitter in me, this is the radical reshifting of my world at the beginning of a long week, and it is beautiful and true and I treasure it.

Love from my babysitter heart,

1 comment:

  1. I literally had the same reaction while tucking a 7 year old little friend under her covers, and promising to "hold toes" with her (pressing our toes together) until she fell asleep. I was so peaceful I wanted to cry. How is it that you were able to give words to my experience? It is uncanny how you do it each time, and yet it is your own life you write about. Lovely.


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