Sunday, January 4, 2009


It's weird, I know. There are kids that don't make me immediately roll my eyes and look for an escape route, there is a four year old who can warm my cold, dark heart to the point of melting, or maybe sublimation.

I don't particularly like children. I do think they're fun to watch, to grin at, but interacting with them is a challenge I'm not always excited about -- especially if I have to reach out to stubborn, frivolous youths or crying babies (you know who you are!). Refer to earlier post: I lied if I hinted at all that I enjoyed making babies cry.
Picking up / carrying babies terrifies me. And honestly, I can't do the baby talk or the shaking and tickling and dancing. I usually end up trying to have real conversations with babies, and they usually end up crying.

Maybe there's just something else about children from low-income countries.

My last day in Guatemala, spent sitting by the street playing with the local children, was unexpectedly glorious-- in the "holy smoking bat cakes this is great and fun, but I hope I don't make these kids cry" sort of way.

Children in Guatemala have so little-- everything becomes a toy or implement of fun. The boys would beg me to go into the workshop and bring out bicycles, and I held them to strict half hour limits. Juan Fran would usually try to convince me to be party to his mischief and misadventures, or pick fights with me, which usually ended in me holding him upside down and shaking him. Once, he turned over in my arms and headbutted me on the nose. Jamie wanted to be carried around, and I did so, picking up every pebble and feather and delighting her with this shower of gifts.

Jamie is four, but looks (and weighs) like she's two. She can count backwards from thirteen and can throw a peach stone with deadly accuracy.

Lespia is hands down the most handsomest kid I have ever met. She's Jamie's big sister, daughter of an alcoholic father, and lived on an elevated, barren lot with a tin roofed house just down the street. She would always be swinging from the single, bare tree, running errands or entertaining Jamie, but could spot me on the roof of the workshop or on the street and would call out my name when I least expected it. I could hardly remember hers.

At thirteen, she was taking care of household tasks and the ringleader of a scrubby bunch of delightful (did I just say that?) little children. Words can't describe how much respect I had. I wanted so desperately to talk to her and figure her out, but I never had the words-- what was I supposed to ask her, anyway?. Como est- And when she smiled, my mind went blank.

When I left town, I sneaked away without notice.