I can’t recall the last time I saw the morning sun, or could hear the hum of the
fish tank, or saw the trees standing still. The rain has been coming down here in Austin for so long, day after day, that when I woke up this morning, I immediately noticed how quiet it was. Nothing is animated outside; the raindrops aren’t shoving for space, crowding the lawn, tap-dancing on the sidewalk. Here comes our sky, rising in it’s pink and yellow hue, crowning achievement that the sun is constantly waiting behind the pregnant clouds swollen with rain.
The other day, io and i sat on the front porch under warm blankets, rocking in the rocking chair MY mother used to rock me in!, talking about pirate ships and
making up funny stories about birds who might cover our lawn at any minute—what would they be? Flamingos, crows, chick-a-dees, robins, eagles, starlings…we listed all the birds we could think of…watching the pouring of the rain…everything green and shiny, the street slick; a man out walking his dog in just his tee-shirt and jeans, the dog attempting to sniff around: did everything smell like water? We wondered if he decided to walk in the rain or if he got caught out in the rain. Then we talked about strawberries and how we had picked some, earlier in the summer, by the side of our house.
“Do you remember they were warm, Mom?” io asked.
“Mmm…” I nodded.
We rocked and snuggled. The rain kept hammering away. Mists of it would occassionally blow through our open porch, but we were loving it. Our own Niagra Falls, our own dip into a future memory to cherish.
I’ve been playing library gigs all over Austin…I never realized where all the libraries were until I started arriving at them! The kids are open-eyed and
ready to play…I sing, I tell stories, I give away free stickers and hugs (or high fives–their choice)…I draw on dry-erase boards…When I draw big pop eyes on frogs or cats, they think that is very funny indeed. I love the collective laugh of children. There is nothing more free and gleeful; it makes me giddy just thinking about it!
One little girl, Gizelle, comes to every gig with her mom and her baby brother, Paul. They are a beautiful family. The mom wears a sling, and Paul’s ecstatic smile is always popping out, when he isn’t nursing or sleeping. Gizelle has the mystery of a tiny Mona Lisa, but she looks like an angel: curly blond hair,
bright sky-blue eyes, plump cheeks. Yesterday, I brought her a tiny thumbprint
of the sea from St. Thomas…I put it in my pocket as I was leaving the house:
Gizelle, I thought. Gizelle will be there today.
Now, I walk through the house thinking: What gift can I take Gizelle? It’s like a treasure hunt for something tiny, something meaningful. She’s very intelligent, definately not a child who you hand a lollipop and say, “There you go!” I want to give her a piece of the world, or my travels, and hand her some history to ponder. Because I see her slant her head, I watch her wheels work. She has
something she will bring to this world. But, then, doesn’t every child?
Last night at the dinner table, over coffee, my mom, one of my dads, my husband and I got into a discussion of politics, children, coffee…My mom talked about how she was involved in a study of children and creativity back in the 1960’s…she gave children papers and crayons and asked them to draw self-portraits. It was decided, by somebody, that the more a child drew, or the more detail involved, that relagated a child’s intelligence.
I reflected on how that might be true then, but I would assume studies have altered that thought. Environment plays a HUGE part, I said. If children aren’t exposed to extended language, supplies, musuems, thought…how can they learn to dictate and expose their own inner thoughts? How can inner thoughts even be thought without early guidance and exposure to creativity?
I see children all day long. I see how children who come from (some) low income families have trouble drawing more than a simple stick figure. I see how (some) children who come from money and have had the opportunity to go to camp, art classes, travel, etc have a wider possession of expressing themselves on paper with pen. However, the children I see who come from attention relating (my term) families seem to have the most verbal/artistic/musical expression because what they have been given is a sense of self:
through consistent and genuine encounter moments.
So, my feeling is that spending time with one’s children is more important that classes, television, nannies, schooling, special tutors…This mysterious connection, the bonding, between parents and children is extremely important for a child to understand it’s place in the world. This foundation of listening/talking/touching/eye contact can not be replaced by any other outside
element: it must be treated with respect and handled with love. The parent, or caregiver (grandparent, fosterparent, adoptive parent…in this case, still the “parent”), has to enjoy the quality of time spent together, just as much as the child.
That is what I see in so many of the parents and children who come to my shows.
Now, I must tell you a story of a tired, flustered parent. A simple enough story. One I hope will help you should you ever be in the same spot.
I was at the bank one day, sitting, waiting for a teller, when a man came and sat down next to me with his 2 year old son. This is how the man arrived:
He was already angry at his little boy, I could tell by the way he practically slammed his son into a chair and steamed, “Stop wiggling! Sit still! Don’t make any noise!” And then this man grabbed a magazine and buried his head into the pages.
I was sitting approximately two feet away from this child. His eyes were full of tired tears. He was trying so hard not to move. He was so full of fear.
Whenever he would move, even slightly, the man would grumble, “Stop it!” without even looking up.
Of course, I was exploding with emotion, internally. What could I do?
Finally, I leaned over and tapped the man, gently, on his arm.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Would you mind if I played with your little boy while you read? I’m so bored…”
The man looked at me like I was crazy. “Sure,” he said, “go right ahead.”
I got down on the floor, so I was looking up into the little one’s face, and started to quietly tell him a story, smiling with my eyes, my heart.
This little boy and I must have only played for about 10 minutes, but when the clerk called the man’s name, and they walked away, they were both smiling, relaxed.
As I was leaving the bank, I saw this family, again, and I smiled to both of them. The man mouthed a “thank you”, and I waved goodbye to his baby.
When I got out to my car, I cried and cried. Mostly with happiness that God has given me such a tender heart to want to help others, but also I wept with grief: grief for all the children and all the people, around this world, suffering needlessly everyday. All the suffering that I myself have caused, in small ways and big ways, when I was selfish, or tired, or just confused!
How I long for parents and children to know that simple love of connection.
How I long for our country, and all countries, to feel the connection of love
instead of war.
How I must continue to love from wherever I am at all times. Who will it send home with peace?