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At Home in the Woods- Abby's World

Fri, Nov 8th, 2002
Posted in Columnists

The Lanesboro library was our first stop. She found the children's section immediately, picked out a book with an elephant on the front cover sitting in a bathtub drinking tea. She sat at one of the small chairs and began to turn the pages. I picked out several more books for her, all of which she firmly discarded except for one with a big green frog on the cover. When we left she said, "Thank you, Nancy Bee, for taking me to this new library." The library was new to her.

Next, we walked around the pond in Sylvan Park. I pointed out the geese swimming towards us. She thought they were coming to kiss her. We passed a woman walking with her little girl. Abby greeted the little girl enthusiastically and the two of them waved to each other again and again, as they walked around the pond in opposite directions.

Abby is my three-year-old great niece. She was to be with me all day. Because it was no more than a day, I had the luxury of giving her my complete attention and energy.

The park playground was a big hit. Abby immediately climbed the steps to the slides and slid down every one. She ran fearlessly back and forth across the swinging bridge. She was in a world that was exactly the right size, a world that I could see through her eyes, but one in which I felt like a giant. Soon, a swarm of first graders came running out of the nearby school, shouting and laughing as though they had been set free after a long imprisonment. Abby joined the kids without hesitation. They did not seem to mind the small intruder as they made way for her and showed her how to use some of the equipment.

I let her play until she wore herself out. When we finally sat down on a bench, she said it was "refreshing" to rest because she was "all tuckered out." While sitting there, we looked at the pictures in the elephant book and made up our own stories to go with them.

Because I hadn't seen her for awhile, I was a little worried that Abby would be shy of me and afraid to leave the care of her grandmother, but she showed no shyness at all. However, on our way to my house in the woods she said that my husband, her Uncle Art, should use his high voice with her and then she wouldn't be afraid of him. When she first saw Art, she clung to my leg and hid behind it, but her shyness didn't last long. Soon the three of us were playing ball and chasing butterflies. Little things, such as acorns and their caps, caterpillars, small spiders, autumn-colored leaves and ladybugs, captured most of her attention. I realized that my interest in the small details of nature is one of the things that allows me to get close to children.

Everything was exciting to Abby, even a simple walk with Art and I each holding a hand and swinging her between us from time to time. "Swing me," she said. "Do it again." Every once in awhile, she stopped to pick up a present for her daddy or mommy--a leaf, a stick, a stone.

Back at the porch, we had another refreshing rest and then Abby "performed" for us by dancing, doing somersaults and running around an electric pole. Everything about our niece seemed beautiful and sweet to us right down to her little jeans and t-shirt. We could see ourselves, a childless aging couple, watching her with tears of gratitude in our eyes.

Finally, Abby and I settled down on the couch to watch a movie about Barney the dinosaur and one about Peter Rabbit. Her little body cuddled next to mine, the animation in her eyes and the expressiveness of her words seemed like miracles.

All too soon, it was time to take our niece back to her grandparent's house. When we arrived there, she talked non-stop about the new library, the playground, the kids, the acorns and their hats, Barney and the books about the frog and the elephant in the bathtub drinking tea.

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