My pop-pop turned 85 yesterday and my mom, my bro who’s back from college, my two little ones and I piled into my mom’s van and made the 20-minute ride to the senior citizens home where he lives. Shortly after we sang Happy Birthday and had a little cake, we drove to a playground so the kids could run around for a bit.
Every time we wind up at the park, my grandfather reminisces about how he used to take my siblings and me to the park when we were little. I always wonder how it must be for him to have watched his own kids grown up, then his grandkids and now his great grandkids. That has to be something.
While we were sitting on the bench chatting and enjoying watching the boys run around and climb up and down the slide with their uncle, a girl came over and asked if she could play tag with my kids.
They start with “bubble-gum bubble-gum in a dish” and suddenly they’re off, but 30 seconds into the game, the girl loses her footing on the uneven pavement, lands face down and begins screaming.
There is a second pause as everyone is staring trying to register what happened, following which my mom and I are quickly off the bench and by the girl. As we are looking around the park, there are no other adults around and the way she was going on, for a second, it wasn’t clear whether she had twisted or broken something.
As I am patting her back trying to console her and figure out what is hurting, it’s finally determined she is just scuffed up a bit. I pick her up and sit her down on her bum and ask her her name and where her parents are at.
Between her sobs, she tells me her name is Israel, she is 9, with her dad for the week and their house is in the complex a few blocks down. Her knuckles are bloodied, so is her side and her knee. Every time she looks at them, she breaks out screaming again. I tell her to take a deep breath and that it looks worse than it is.
“It’ll heal up in no time,” I say. She calms down a bit. My mom goes off to find her dad and my brother goes to the car to get a bottle of water. As I’m fishing through my purse for some ointment she says something that takes me back for a moment.
“How am I going to fight now?” She asks me a matter of- factly while staring again at her bloodied knuckles.
“Fight?” I ask. In my mind, I’m thinking about why a 9-year-old girl with bloodied knuckles first concern is whether or not she will be able to fight.
I must have had a look on my face because she asks me “Yeah, you ever been in one?”
“I try to talk things out if I can, it’s better. If you can, you should try too, okay?” It finally registers that we are on the “rough” side of town and I know this is likely a semi-ridiculous statement, but I say it anyway.
She shakes her head and says, “Okay.”
By this point, my grandfather has walked over and tells her we will help her over to the park bench. He is telling her about how tripped on church one Sunday and bumped himself up a bit. She is amazed by this and is no longer visibly upset by her ordeal.
As she is excitedly chatting about her siblings, school and running track I can’t help think how smart she sounds for her age and that she will go far in life if she stays out of trouble.
I guess we all have to decide which battles to fight….hopefully she’ll figure it out okay.
Luckily my mom was able to locate her dad and he came and got her. We returned to the park bench and went back to chatting with my grandfather as we watched the boys climb up and down the slide again.
It was interesting evening but in the end, it turned out okay.
Thanks for reading ❤