Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, said John Lennon, apparently.
Brain just threw this at me now, because this whole word association doodle was meant to be about something else entirely.
And I mean entirely …
Brain and I were knocking it around as we slouched on the blue garden bench, coffee black and tart in the rising heat, taking in the smells and the bells as we dissected, rejected and connected, and soon got that yen to dance the keyboard fingers tango.
This needs another coffee first, though, we reckoned, and in we moseyed to the kitchen.
So, I’m heating my mug at the sink for another cup of mud, as Tom Waits would say, and I’m staring out the front window.
Some neighbours must reckon I grow here, I’m there so often, on eye-patrol, scanning left and right and over and yonder through these shutter slats.
Taking in nothing at all if brain and I are busy … but more usually narrow-eyed and narky about the state of our estate, or maybe admiring how those trees across the way are finally coming on, or glad the grass has finally been cut …
But it’s summer, and already the familiar loose gang of kids is out there, none of them more than eight or nine, I’d say …. on the grass patch across the road.
You know the jinks … the girls handstanding against walls, spinning cartwheels of varied competencies, all flips, skips and hops … the lads more free-form, wrestling, pushing, a football usually on the go, lots of short-lived huffs and fiery chases … but mostly endless squeals and high-pitched giggles …
So pumped on life … filling this place with energy and vitality, so joyous to observe …
Of course none of them are anywhere near the long chrysalis age of surly self-consciousness and second-guessing everyone and everything, that presages the longed-for metamorphosis .…
Longed for by me, anyway …
Our pair are still cocooned upstairs … it is only 11.30 …
I realise I’ve been watching these kids for months, enjoying them.
Of course I know some of them by name, and I chat to their parents the odd time, others I just know to see.
The more I watch them, the more I think about … I have assembled ideas around their personalities, for one, and how they go about things …
See that little guy in the blue shorts and yellow T-shirt … the one with the thick mop of dark blonde hair and big blue eyes, who looks so innocent and ad-friendly cute?
Well, he is actually as destructive as a termite.
If he was adult-sized, the estate would be rubble by now. He swings out of branches, shakes street light poles with such vehemence, and batters toy cars with hurleys and anything resembling a baton with such ferocious energy.
And just as quickly drops his weapon and chases after that slightly older little girl with the strawberry blonde pigtails, who will give him what for if he catches her too quickly.
She takes no prisoners, does this one … she’ll go far …
And that other girl, with the snaggled perma-grin and the impossibly blonde curly hair, so sturdy and determined … rushing at things, and I can see her rushing at life in the same indefatigable, perma-grinned way. You’d hope …
Then there’s Stunt Kid.
Dark-haired, dark-eyed and darkly mischievous.
Puts my heart sideways when I look out and see him careering out from the path onto the road, or around the corner across the way at ridiculous speeds on a banged up scooter that was never meant to be treated like this …
And what about Miss Minder … the oldest, I would say, and so slim and gazelle like as she executes the most perfect cartwheels, flips and routines.
Already the minder and the teacher … patiently holding legs for the younger girls as they work on their techniques … sorting out rows, and grabbing Mr Destructive’s weapon off him the odd time …
That’s the core … others come and go, in that easy way that young kids mingle, and scoot off home, or down the way.
Those gorgeous little black kids with their fantastic hair, boys and girls … yes, those sparkling white teeth, and my, how the yellows, reds and blues of their clothes look so wonderful against that chocolate skin.
Black, at first … but now I see them for themselves … like the young lad who finds everything so funny, and is always up to mischief, teasing and joshing, and his prissy older sister who is always holding her hand to her lips when he says anything inappropriate, which seems to be often, and grabs his arm and drags him home if he goes too far …
Out there burnishing in the sun till it begins to slide, or parents call them in … more than once …
Kids playing … kids learning … about life beyond their still close-at-hand homes … fitting in and falling out … flitting in and stepping out …
But what do I really know about these kids … or what lies beyond the play ground outside my kitchen window?
And I’m thinking now about this time of flipping, skipping and cartwheeling, and the all-too-short hop into adolescence … and beyond …
When the music of childhood stops, and you have to grab your college or career chair … and you fidget around on it a while, until you eventually learn to sit with adult decorum … or not.
Not too many of us grown-ups skipping and cartwheeling around our estates or workplaces … could you even imagine flipping up the steps to your office of a morning, or doing a handstand against the canteen wall while you wait for the kettle to boil?
It would make a great musical scene though, wouldn’t it?
Of course it wouldn’t do your promotion prospects a power of good if you were to kick a colleague who annoys you in the shinbone, or yank their hair, or go running in tears to the boss when the woman from HR won’t share her Haribo Starmix with you ….
Sitting at my computer upstairs now, I can still hear the shrieks and feel the effervescent buzz of summer and life vivacious …
Long may the kids of summer run …
Thanks for reading — try another one … sure, why not follow my blog!
Lovely piece of prose, Enda, as is usual. Very enjoyable, but the sub-editor comes out in me still – children are very identifiable, unless you’ve cunningly altered their descriptions. And I wouldn’t count on people not seeing your blog.
As we used to say – if in doubt, f*** it out!
Fair enough. Michael … the Fah-Heds are gone
At a BBQ yesterday, one enterprising little girl of about 4, took some of the desserts, put them in a trolley and started selling them to guests too taken up in conversation to visit the buffet. She was asking a penny for each one, or the rounded-up equivalent 5 forints. Towards the end, all her coins dropped out of her pocket to the ground. As she picked them up, I approached, asking if I could buy her last meringue (the most popular dessert of the day, I was sure they’d all gone. But she’d noticed the demand and squirrelled away a couple to produce at the end. All her coins now in hand, she looked at me and said, quite seriously – Yes, of course. And I accept paper money, too 🙂
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Haha… That’s a cracking story…. she will either go far or ruin the Hungarian economy… Go rogue and do a Bernie Madoff!!
Great story I can just see the kids you describe. I have reached the age when i can no longer think of promotions and raises. so I have donned my most colorfuf shirt and ran around the block. The neighbors think i’m nuts but I no longer mind. Go Kids
Above all I wish you Laughter
I too watch the kids in our street and wonder how they manage to keep up the energy to play outside all day long. And what do their parents do while they are gone, it must be like having them at school. They are turfed out at 8am and don’t go home until dusk, Maybe popping back for sustenance from time to time. My kids used to spend time in the garden, not wanting to mix with the kids of the street, apart from the Little Man who would go out with the boys next door…until they moved away. Teenagers are a different breed.
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It’s just fun to watch them at this age, before the teenage angst stuff kicks in, Anne