(This was written in September 2013 — am just now posting it…)
I needed to walk… A lot was weighing on my mind—and a good walk always energizes me, and gives me time to really breathe and refocus and pray. I had a lot I wanted to talk to God about. Finally, on my last lap of the first mile, I remembered how it felt to be five years old again. I remembered one of my favorite stories from childhood, about walking home by myself after my Kindergarten teacher forgot about me on a field trip to the dentist.
Being left alone had felt invigorating and liberating. No, it wasn’t good for a five-year-old to walk home by herself, but I remember how adventurous it was, and how much I loved that… And now, on this walk, I wanted to feel that freedom again…and let the weight of life just lift and fly away for a while…
Instead of walking through the neighborhood, I chose the track behind the elementary school. Except for a few birds, a rabbit, and ants building their little hills, I was the only one there. After finishing a mile, intent on going for two or three more, a man and woman with two young children headed for the playground.
Soon, I found the two little twins walking beside me. Quite gregarious, precocious and adorable, the little girl promptly told me she was five years old…and then said that she and her brother were going to start Kindergarten next week.
As we walked together, their imaginations grew… Mounds of mown grass were mountains to zigzag through, and wide portions of newly patched and dried concrete were rivers to jump over, and freshly fallen leaves were dollar bills for buying tickets to the circus.
They talked and laughed, and asked me to race them to the curve in the track, and encouraged me to skip along with them. So I did. I ran and skipped.
The man and woman, who turned out to be their young grandparents, waved and laughed from a bench. “They’ll wear you out,” the woman said.
It was okay. I was actually having fun with these two munchkins.
“Come here and see our classrooms!” the twins said.
“Go with them!” said the grandparents.
So we walked a few feet to peer into the classroom windows. Little desks, little tables, lots of crayons and glue and construction paper. They were going to have fun in there next week. And then I remembered my own Kindergarten classroom in another country… It was a wonderful memory.
In a flash, the twins were running toward the playground, but then stopped to make sure I was following.
“Will you watch us on the monkey bars?” the little girl asked.
“Okay,” I said.
“Go with them and be a kid again,” said the grandparents.
The twins didn’t want me to just watch them; they wanted me to do whatever they did.
“You can do it!” the little girl said as I considered a ladder not meant for an adult.
“All right,” I said. “I’ll try.” And I made it up to the top.
Then, with the kindest, most genuine spirit, she said, “See? I knew you could do it!”
So we climbed more ladders and slid down slides, and walked up and down stairs, and danced in “the dance room,” as the little girl called it, a square section of the outdoor play set.
“She’s going to take ballet soon,” the grandmother said.
Ballet… I remember my mom walking me down the street to my first ballet class when we moved back to this city. I still remember watching the tap dancers’ feet and being mesmerized, and the owner giving me a little pink plastic ballet slipper, which I still have…
I showed the little girl a ballet step; she did it perfectly. I remembered my days of teaching…
Soon, my time was up, and the twins begged me to stay.
“I wish I could,” I said.
So we all said our good-byes, and I told the twins how much they were going to like Kindergarten. They smiled and laughed and waved and skipped away to play some more—but then the little girl ran back over to hand me something.
“For you,” she said.
It was a little piece of wood or mulch. At least that’s what a grownup would say…
“That’s money,” said the little boy.
“Ah,” I said. “Thank you!”
Yes, it was. A type of rare, valuable coin of sorts…
I’m thankful for this walk today… God knew what I was going to talk to Him about, and put this family in my path at the perfect time. Through them, God lifted the heaviness, reminded me that we all still have that inner child with a wondrous imagination still inside, and gave me kind encouragement. In fact, if someone were to tell me that this was a family of angels instead of humans, I’d believe them.
Yes, the five-year-old in me came back out to play for a little bit. And for a perfect span of time, I didn’t have to think about anything except imaginary mountains and rivers and dollar bills for the circus…and a little precious coin I’ll treasure forever.