Most days, I come home to find Little Biker Boy and Ponytail, the two little neighbor kids, playing with the toys on my front porch. On sunny days during September and October, I’d take a break to sit outside with them, asking about their day, inspecting bruises, and admiring lego block creations. Now that the days are getting colder and the dark comes early, I come home to find them riding up and down the driveway on their bikes, their cheeks red with the cold. When they see me, they run to give me hugs and come inside to color pictures at the kitchen table.
When I bought the coloring books, sketch pads, and crayons, I wondered if the two kids could sit still long enough to color. They’re very active kids, very rough and tumble. They’ve always been mystified by the way members of my household spend their time writing, reading, sketching, working on laptop computers, playing quiet games like chess, or doing schoolwork. They’re puzzled by the lack of television and the fact that we call spending time on the computer “work.”
I’d been a little worried about how the transition to playing indoors would work out, but it turns out the kids love sitting at the kitchen table, drinking milk and eating cookies while they color and talk. “I’m going to use pink today,” Ponytail will say importantly as she settles down at the table. “This one is for you,” Little Biker Boy will say as he begins drawing. He’ll glance over at Boy in Black, sitting on the couch doing research on his computer, and smile. I think the quiet work makes the two kids feel like they fit into the household.
Today, we were talking about the little orange kitten that we found this summer. Film Guy’s brother adopted her in July, and I’d seen a picture of her recently. “She’s gotten bigger,” I told the kids, “And she’s happy.”
“I miss her,” Little Biker Boy said. Ponytail said nothing. She simply put her head down on the table and began crying. That happens sometimes with her: a conversation can trigger overwhelming sadness. She’s a child with deep pockets of sadness. I moved to the red chair by the fireplace so she could sit in my lap and cry as long as she needed to. Little Biker Boy went on coloring. Ponytail sobbed for several minutes, cuddling up to me. Then she stood up, wiped the tears from her face, and went back to her spot at the table.