It’s not often that I won’t clear my schedule for a chance to spend time with my granddaughter Lila.
Mostly, that’s because I love her more than anything else in the world. She’s like a juicy steak, mashed potatoes, a hot fudge sundae and my favorite beer all rolled up into a pint size package of joy. But it’s also because every moment I spend with her is a moment I get to learn something about the world; a moment when I get to see what life was like before it gets all jaded, confusing, disingenuous and, sometimes, painful. I wrote about this a few months ago, and it’s still valid today.
Today was another chance for that – but also more. A very special sort of more. Because not only did Lila and I have fun, I once again got to see the world through her eyes. And, as a bonus, I got to experience the pure goodness that someone like Lila can pull from the world.
A little background: I’m not what you’d call a rocking chair grandfather. I’m not old enough for that. I started a family very young, and so did my daughter. That means I’m a grandfather in a reasonably healthy middle aged body. I’m more of a “let’s do a bunch of stuff” grandfather. I make it my mission to keep Lila busy and engaged. If I’ve done it right, she generally is ready to fall asleep by the time I take her back to her parents. I’m pretty good at wearing her out.
So today, I thought a stroll around downtown would do the trick. We walked up and down the sidewalks, stopping into different stores for a few minutes before heading on down Main Street. But in this, I’m always watching Lila to see how she interacts with her environment. One of the first things I noticed was how fascinated she is with just about everything. The stone patterns in the sidewalks; the textures in the brick facades. She’d stand and point at the dressed up mannequins in the storefronts, and stare at the merchandise lined up in the windows. Sometimes we’d walk north, then just as quickly turn around and walk south, depending on what caught Lila’s interest. And there’s very little that escapes her. She takes the time to explore the landscaping, or the small tiles along a structure. She sees what others have dropped on the ground, the cobwebs beside an entryway. She sees it all, and it is all interesting to her. I see this all the time from her, and it is always amazing to me.
It makes me realize how much in life we take for granted, how much we walk past with indifference, as if it didn’t matter. Things that are beautiful, or out of place, or a unique creation, or something that feels soft, rough, uneven. We just carry on. Why? Because we have somewhere to be and something to do, right? Who has time to notice life when there’s so much not living to be done?
We settled on Brewed Awakenings in the Fraese Drug Store for lunch. We ordered the special – chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, a roll and broccoli. Do you remember how much fun it is to slurp a noodle into your mouth? If not, do it. It’s awesome. It makes this really cool sound, and before you know it the whole thing is in your mouth. And Lila really liked the broccoli – which is really a very good thing. Every bite brought a big smile to her face, maybe because it tasted good and had a nice squishy feeling.
When we first sat down, there was a man and three children a few tables away. The youngest child had an orange teddy bear, and Lila kept reaching out for it, until our food arrived. She really liked that bear, but I wouldn’t let her roam around for fear that she’d go snatch it away. She eventually got over not having a bear in her hands. We finished our lunch, and went outside. But again, the children and the bear caught Lila’s attention. She stood at the glass storefront, looking and pointing at the family. We walked down the sidewalk a bit, and the father and his children ended up walking alongside us. We chatted for a bit, and talked about how that teddy bear had caught Lila’s interest.
It was pleasant, then they continued on, and Lila and I headed over to Avenue A park. This alone would have been magical, because Lila and I looked at Cow Creek, the art in the park, the plants, did a little yoga, laid on the ground – and I have no idea why we did that, but it was fun and maybe that’s reason enough. But here’s where a great day gets better in the most simple, yet amazing way.
While Lila and I were playing around, the father and his three sons from the restaurant came back out way. The youngest of the children’s face told me he was both excited and happy. His pace was brisk, and he was gaining distance from the rest of his family. He carried a rainbow colored teddy bear in his hand, and he wanted to catch Lila’s attention. This is the story: They had walked back down to the store where the orange bear had been purchased – the one that captured Lila’s eye – and bought another bear. On the way back, they spotted us playing in the park, and the father asked his kids if they’d like to give the bear to that little girl, the one in the restaurant who had been so captivated by the orange bear. They didn’t hesitate, they walked straight to us eager to give something away to someone else. We thanked the family for their gift and chatted for a few more minutes. Their names were James, Javen, Logan an Seldon. If anyone knows them, see that they find their way to this. I want them to know how much their gesture meant to us.
Lila and I played in the park for another half hour or so, this time with a new companion that wouldn’t have been, save the kindness of people who had no reason or motive to be kind. And this new friend was treated well. There were hugs and kisses, talks on the bench, and a firm grasp by the small but able hands of a toddler.
This. Is. It. I mean it. There is really little else to life. A bear, a girl, and an opportunity taken to be kind. It really can be that simple. It doesn’t have to be so hard.