I sat on the floor, leaning against the edge of a couch as I watched football with two of my favorite people and their children. We adults silently fixed on the action while the two kids buzzed around with toys and restless activity. The whole scene stood as a contradiction. My favorite sort of contradiction.
The warm, worn, daily contradictions that give life an ordinary richness.
I curled in my place, sitting back, knees up by my chest. A customary pose, relaxed yet walled away. Curved slightly inward. The introvert’s disposition, physically displayed.
My peace was shattered when my favorite three-year-old girl threw herself across my lap with a yell. She draped herself over my legs, arms stretched like eagle’s wings. I wrapped my arms around her frame and growled back at her, grinning through a mock scowl, shifting her thin body upright from its sprawl. She laughed at herself, pleased to interrupt me, and settled into my lap. She nested like a baby bird, surrounded by my angled legs on one side and my body on the other – walled into safe repose in my arms.
She lay against my chest.
We sat like this for long minutes. I felt her relax against me, and wondered at her comfort. This lean little girl, all bones and sinew and wildness, who had bothered just enough with my habitual walls to destroy them. All that unruly energy was now folded up in my arms, and – dare I say – calmed by my embrace. I rested my chin against her narrow shoulder, moved and bewildered.
After blessing me with the strange beatitude of a different sort of peace than the one I knew, the child became restless. She twitched herself upright and began climbing over my legs, attempting various odd and twisting tangles. I am much too small a person to serve as monkey bars. This did not phase her.
She ended up hanging upside-down, crooked over my knees. I endured the assault without a word, more curious than annoyed. How does one consider someone else’s body their property, anyway?
Before I knew it, the child had perched herself again in the protective safety between my raised knees and angled chest. Her elbows jutted out for balance, bird-like, one knocking me softly in the face. She grabbed one of my knees with both hands.
“You’re my horse,” she announced, while I was still thinking of her as a downy little feathered creature.
I expressed my puzzlement with a grunt. Besides, her feet were jamming up against my liver.
She decided that her “horse” needed to be packed with things for her journey to…well, she never said where we were going. She climbed off me to grab a fluffy lamb, thrusting it up against my shoulder. The next instant, she clambered over my legs to “rescue” some little baby dolls. These found company with the lamb. She worked hard to keep everyone on board, which was not easy due to the small size of her pack animal. Her concern for her imaginary friends left her ill prepared to keep her own balance, and I gently kept her upright with soft nudges of my hands and arms. Everyone – the lamb, the “babies,” some keys, a box, the delighted little girl – teetered in my grasp.
I did not know how to feel about being a beast of burden. She thought nothing of it.
Her creative thoughtlessness was, I decided, another form of trust. Surely I could be anything to her, and she need not ask. I smiled at this as she ordered me onward. We did not move, but in her mind I think we galloped across magical plains.