“I wanted to understand more about her world.”
Sitting on the garden bench the scene before us was a convivial little world, self-contained and complete. Small children ran and explored, slid on slides and swung on swings (with dad’s help), and ate sandwiches and slices from under a fly net food cover, positioned on spread out rugs on the green springy grass, where adults sat and sipped champagne and also ate sandwiches and rather more slices than were really good for them.
It was the second birthday of a delightful little girl. She wore her favourite party dress and ate fairy bread and kept travelling into the farthest reaches of the park on her trike, only to be coaxed back by an aware grown-up and perhaps distracted with some new activity. She enjoyed the bubbles which her aunty blew with the bubble blowing wand; bubbles which seemed to fill the clearing and floated and for a time refused to blow away or pop, and the sunlight, slanting through thick low clouds full of heavy grey water droplets, made the outlines of bubbles shine and glow against the shadows of the trees. The little girl and her friends jumped and clapped and laughed.
A father and his daughter played on the play equipment and there was an element of danger when she turned upside down and dad had to be careful no-one got hurt. Dad was a bit scared and he was a bit careful, and that’s what parenting is. The apparently godlike grasp, the answer to any question in any situation on any subject was shown to be the charade children are never supposed to notice. No-one was hurt, of course. It was a quietly intimate little scene.
A cookie was offered and accepted when a little boy wandered over towards the rugs and the food. He was not a guest but he was just the right age for the event and later his mum and the birthday girl’s mum talked with immediate rapport about their little ones, as there is always some common ground between mums and dads when their kids are the same age.
All the things were packed up and the party was reconvened at the house, and just as the birthday cake appeared the heavens opened and the cat was let in from the back deck, looking bedraggled. The cake was a Pavlova, decorated with fruit, and it was delicious, but it was also good to smear across the beautiful Chinese coffee table it was served on, as boisterous little boy was to demonstrate.
When adults began the leaving preliminaries I was handed the little girl in the party dress by her mum, and I held her, and the girl kissed her energetic little friend (he of the cake incident) and I heard her say goodbye to him, and I heard her notice her dad on the other side of the room, and she said the words and some of them made no sense, but she knew what she was thinking and what she was saying, and I heard melodious little sounds as she babbled and I wanted to understand more about her world.
photo by nappent / flickr