Some of the neighbourhood kids are outside playing hide-and-seek. God, it’s been a long time since I played hide-and-seek. Adults don’t play hide-and-seek – not for fun, anyway, which is a pity.
Anyway, the game’s going on and there’s a kid hiding in the tall grass just under our balcony. He’s been there for ages. Everybody else has been found and they’re about to give up on him over at the base, and go home.
I couldn’t let that happen, so I yelled out “Hey, get found, kid”! I think it scared him so badly he probably wet his pants, started crying and has run home to tell his mum about this “nasty lady who yelled at me”.
It’s really difficult to know how to be helpful sometimes.
Before I begin pissing off parents, I want to point out that I like kids. I used to be one myself. I’m a proud aunt and maybe one day I might even be a mum. But I have to admit, there’s one place where the sight of a child fills me with outright fear – on a plane.
Now before the angry, crayon-smudged letters start to flood in, I’m not saying people should have to make a choice – breed or travel – but I think it’s a proposal worthy of consideration.
I don’t blame parents, I just don’t think kids and confined spaces are a good mix. So when I recently found myself sitting next to an ‘unaccompanied minor’ (a six year old boy) on a holiday flight, my heart sank. He was a cute kid with a big mop of curly hair. For you Aussies, kind of how Dickie Knee would look if he was brought to life, Pinocchio style.
(Look, I’m not saying six-year-old boys don’t have their place but, to me, that place is entertaining me as part of the cast of Billy Elliot, or working in a sweatshop using their nimble fingers.)
Oh well, I thought, I’ll just keep reading my book and he won’t bother me. However, just as I opened the book I was holding, he stuck out his tiny hand and said “Hi, my name is Josh. What’s yours?”
I looked around quickly.
Just as well I’m not a male because sadly, in our society, if you’re a 30 something man engaged in conversation with a six year old boy, you start to panic that the authorities will get involved (or, at the very least, Rolf Harris will ask you to join his Facebook page).
But I’m a female and I mumbled my name and hoped that would put an end to it. But Josh wasn’t easily dissuaded.
“Don’t you hate travelling economy?” he asked. “I like business class – you get extra leg room.”
I feel the need to reiterate that Josh was six. Not six-feet-tall. Six years old. His feet didn't reach the floor in economy; they wouldn’t have reached the end of the seat in business-class. Here was a kid who could have laid down comfortably in the overhead compartment for a snooze, and he was bitching about the leg room in economy. I liked his style.
“Hey, Katie, do you want to know a fact?” he asked. And to my surprise, I did. I closed my book.
Josh looked at me seriously and began. “Fact: Smoking can kill you, but so can rugby.”
I thought about this for a while and then nodded. You couldn’t argue with that.
I was hooked. “Do you know any other facts?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “Fact:” (He actually said “fact” at the start of each sentence.) “It’d be really cool if you had a tunnel in your house that could take you anywhere you wanted to go in the entire world.”
I pondered this for a moment and realized I couldn’t fault his logic. (Although, I did think there’d still be a way for you to lose your luggage.) But I didn’t have much time to formulate any other thoughts before Josh hit me with another one.
“Fact: You can get cancer from smoking, even if you eat vegetables.”
I nodded and replied, “And even if you eat your veggies, you can still get hurt playing rugby.” He didn’t get it, so I quickly moved on.
“Do you have any more facts you can tell me?” I asked.
“Do I?” he exclaimed, clearly warming to the subject. “Heaps. Fact: A kid in my class once filled his mouth with water and then spat it on his pants and told everyone he had done wee. It was so funny.”
I laughed. And Josh laughed, too, until he made a little snort with his nose.
“Fact:” Josh continued, still giggling, “Bats weigh a kilo – except for Batman, who weighs more than that.”
Yes, I mused, but you’d hardly know it, that black outfit is very slimming.
“Fact:” said my new friend, “Sprite and Lemonade are the same thing, they just have different names.”
By now, the plane that seemed to have taken off only a couple of minutes ago had begun its descent, but I was caught up in the momentum, so I turned to the six-year-old beside me and asked if he knew any more facts.
He said, “Nah, that’s it.”
It didn’t matter, because I had learnt that, sometimes, being with a kid on a plane can be pretty bloody cool, if you just give them a chance.
And that’s a fact.
Which reminds me ………..
This is kind of personal. It might get a little syrupy, so watch out.
What I’m talking about here is something I think of as a ‘treasure box’ given to me by my nephew when he was 4 and made at pre-school.
Once it was a simple white shoe box and now it’s decorated with glitter, feathers, dried pasta, shells and pebbles. It’s gotten a bit mouldy now, but once you look inside, you’ll know what I mean.
There are all these bits of paper with “Hello Katie” and “Hoppy valintime” and “I luv you, Katie” written on them. Stuck to the bottom of the box are exactly 23 “X’s” made out of macaroni. I’ve counted them more than once.
There a hand drawn ‘portraits’, favourite pieces of string, dead flowers, marbles, pictures carefully cut out of magazines and even a favourite stuffed teddy in there.
I can tell you, the treasures of King Tut are nothing compared to this.
I cried when he gave it to me. I just think it’s evidence of love in it’s most uncomplicated and pure state.
He’s about 6 now. He still loves me, though it’s harder to get direct evidence. It’s love that’s complicated by age, knowledge and confusing values.
Yeah sure, this is probably the worst kind of simpleminded female drivel imaginable, and I’ve, more than likely embarrassed us both by mentioning it, but it beats the hell out of anything else I have for comfort.
This box stands for my kind of love and I want to take it with me as far as I go.
Speaking of kids ... someone asked me what I wanted for my next birthday. I might have mentioned it before, but this is what I want -
I want to be 5 years old again. Just for an hour. I want to laugh a lot and cry a lot. I want to be picked up and rocked to sleep in my late mother or father’s arms.
No-one’s going to be able to give me that, but I might give, at least, the memory of it to myself if I try.
Thanks for reading, people. Love you all.