Dear friends of Switchback,
There are days when I find myself at home asking out loud, “Who is this little human that lives with us and where did she come from?” Áine turned five years old on Monday. For me that is something both amazing and sad to behold. The sad part is obvious, in that it means that I too, am five years older. It also means that gone for good is that little baby girl, toddler and ultra portable kid. Now, there is this little human. With little human observations.
For example, her enjoyment of the Hamilton official soundtrack. Áine listened to it just two times and started singing the songs around the house. Annie gave her the blow-by-blow as the album played and employed a history lesson using American currency. At night Áine's prayer became, “God Bless Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, those three other men, and the Schuyler sisters.” And then after a brief thought, “And please bless a little bit King George and the soldiers, even though they were kind of mean.”
As her compassion to King George and the redcoats show, she remains very sensitive to the plight of other people, consoling her fellow classmates at school. During the Nativity play last month, Aine was cast as Mary. When her best friend (who was dressed as an angel) started crying because she didn’t see her parents, Aine shifted the baby Jesus under one arm, then pointed out to the crowd and said, “Look! Don’t cry, they’re right over there!”
Annie's mother gave Annie and myself a crystal Waterford “make up bell” some years back. For those who never have an argument in their relationship, this is a bell you ring to break up an argument and encourage the parties “make up.” Áine discovered the meaning of this bell and now, even discussions about filling the bird feeder are interrupted by the tinkling sound of a bell, rung by a smiling girl. I have found myself much more careful in how I approach topics with Annie, as I always see Áine reaching for the bell.
Thankfully, she still enjoys playing at parks. She has travelled to numerous parks around the north side of Chicago and into Evanston. The fact that she comes alone doesn’t normally faze her, for there are always new friends to be made. “Hi friends,” she says, “will you play with me?” She is blind to any differences in people that us older folks are unfortunately far too aware of. To her, a kid is nothing more or less than a potential friend. Usually she is able to take on the older kids and keep up running and playing tag. Her own joy in connecting with people is infectious and allows her Papa the opportunity to connect with the other kids' parents. Many a wonderful conversation with a stranger has been started by Áine wishing to play with their kid. She has made me more open to saying hello to people and putting the feeling of joy into practice.
The world does creep in and already she has picked up that girls and boys are different. She is aware that other girls talk about looks and clothes. It’s hard to run interference on it and allow her to not start down that path already. The joy is that she is still a kid.
She does have a crush, on a little boy in her class named Max. She considers him cute. “I’m going to marry Max,” she once said. I froze. For now, she is still Papa’s girl, thankfully.
And, she surprised me when she announced she wants to be a singer. Already Áine has composed several songs and shows an interest in instruments. Where she goes with this is up to her.
It is hard to wave goodbye to the toddler, the baby girl and start making room for the young girl, with young girl ideas. Already there are times when I will glance at her and see the future young woman. In the meantime I thank God for each day I can hold her, carry her upstairs at night and still have that great feeling of a little daughter, peaceful and sleepy with her Papa.
American Roots & Celtic Soul