One of my all time favorite kids lives in my neighborhood. Her name (coincidentally) happens to be Gracie Magdalena. Gracie is such a cool little kid. She is five years old and has life firmly in her grasp. She is a pretty child, on the small side for five. She has a winsome smile and light brown hair generally captured in braids. She is not a noisy child but rather an oddly reflective child. It's not that she is shy. In fact, she is not shy at all. She is confident but never has to be the center of attention. She prefers to watch and evaluate a situation before stepping into it but when she moves into action, she is self assured and engaging.
Gracie embraces the world through all her senses. Her sparkly greenish-gold eyes do not miss a detail. She is happy to observe everything around her, especially faces and anything to do with light and color. Unlike lots of kids, she never objects to car rides or having to wait while an adult takes care of some piece of business. That kid will settle in and survey the territory around her, noting details, noting faces, seeing colors, detecting patterns and comparing them all. She might decide to share some observation but she doesn't have to tell you everything that she sees. Sometimes, I think she just likes to keep her thoughts protected in her mind and in her imagination. She is also an usually strong listener for a five year old. Music can entertain her for long periods of time - with or without lyrics. She's not so interested in the loud, big beat kind of thing but rather prefers music that evokes reflection. Odd for a little kid but that's my pal Gracie.
Gracie clearly prefers to be outdoors. She is the kind of kid who wakes up with a grin and ready to go. She is a little kid bike rider, a tree climber, a wave chaser, and a barefoot dancer in the sand and a tumbler in the grass. She is all about up close looks at spiderwebs, dandelions, rocks, seashells, and cracks in the sidewalk. She definitely enjoys using her half-pint hands to explore her world, carefully cradling whatever treasure she is examining. She is keenly aware of warmth and icy cold and will leap to point out sunbeams drifting in on the clear air or frozen water drops on her front porch. I've watched as she twirls in the spring breeze, boisterously laughing as the wind tries to pull up her skirt, and, at the same time, begging me to grab her hands and twirl with her.
I asked her recently if she was afraid of anything.
"Well, yes," she immediately replied. "I'm scared of the dark. One time the nightlight in my room broke in the night and I woke up and I couldn't see anything! It was so daaaarrrrk! (Can you hear her as she draws out the word dark?) I thought I was going to be lost in the dark forever. I started crying and mama came and found me and showed me that the light was still there - just broken. But I don't like the dark. Ever."
I think I am really lucky to have Gracie Magdalena in my neighborhood. She likes to visit and always greets me with a wide open hug. There's something about Gracie's presence that makes me slow down and remember what it was like before. Before tension, headlines, deadlines, and life's complexities took away twirling and time for chasing waves. It might be good for me to watch the world more often through Gracie's eyes but I wonder how you do that when you are way on the other side of five years old.