Monday, July 2, 2012

Those Magnificent Kids and Their Flying Machines

Children are most interesting to watch when they think adults can't see them.

I was watching a little boy at a church picnic who had wandered away from his parents. He was close enough to be within eyesight, but far enough for him to think his parents were too engrossed with their conversation to pay him any mind.

Then began an intriguing game involving ants and blades of grass. Almost immediately his hands and knees were muddy and his shirt had streaks of dirt across the front. He would get the ants to climb up his blade of grass or stick or pine cone or whatever else he could coax them with, and lift them high into the air. At this point, things would get really interesting.

I'm sure you've heard a boy make sound effects. It's an instinct wired into our brains at conception. It probably stems from our cavemen ancestors who couldn't use words and we never evolved out of it. The little boy made sound effects like a pro while making the ants fly around. Each object he was carrying them with came with a new sound. From my untrained ears, I thought I heard a WWII fighter plane complete with firing guns, a bird (probably a raven), and what sounded like an ant (coming from the boy's voice) on a hang glider screaming for precious life itself "Ah! Help! The straps are coming loose and I'm slipping out of the harness!" I may be paraphrasing.

For several minutes, he would pick up his ant and dance around the lawn until the ant fell off its aircraft, or the boy would drop the pine cone and the ant scamper off. Then he would chase it until he lost sight of it, or squished it. At which point the game would start over with a new playmate.

When, during the growing up process, does one stop being fascinated with grass, dirt and bugs? It seems a terrible price to pay for maturing. Playtime goes the way of the buffalo.

I was engaged in conversation for the next part of my story, but when I returned my observations to the boy, he was no longer playing by himself. There were two more children dancing in the grass with him, but they were not terrorizing ants anymore. A little girl had a doll with her and another boy had a truck and an airplane. Some kids don't share very well, but these kids did. I wonder if their parents didn't suggest they bring an extra toy to play with the boy with the stained shirt.

The original boy eyed the airplane and sheepishly asked to play with it. Another interesting thing about children: they don't always ask each other with words. His blue eyes got big. He walked up to the boy holding the toy. He waddled a little with his hips and looked at the other boy expectantly. The other boy handed the plane to him and his lips cracked into the biggest smile only a child can give. He jumped a bit and started running around in circles making more engine and gun noises.

I was tempted to go join in when they sat down with the toys. I couldn't hear what the plane was saying to the doll from where I was sitting, but I'm sure it was significantly more interesting than the dull grown-up conversation I was having.

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