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you are not there

We are taking the little one for a ride on her new sled. It is bright orange, with a fuzzy black and white seat cover to keep her extra warm. Her tiny hands in tiny gloves hold the sides as tight as she can. I pull her down a path, shouting "woohooo" and then she replies "woohoo". N's turn is next, pulling her more schoolgirl than mother for a few minutes. There are other parents with children on sleds passing us. Their eyes straight forward, faces completely blank they slip by in silence. I flash a smile to them, and they do not even look at me. I am not there, just another tree leaning towards the stream that runs below.

There are ducks still, flapping around the brackish water and we throw pieces of stale bread to them. I start to think, not about the complete absence of smiles in this culture. I stopped asking about that long ago, told over and again that smiles are reserved for home, behind closed doors. But I wonder, for the children -  these wiggling bu…

when to pay


The headphones are too big for E, and there is no way to keep them on without her tilting her head into some strange position. She hands them back, sitting on the tall stool, knees together, hands now pressed against them. I will wear the headphones, and pass along the comments to her. We have been in this same little room before, with the same sound engineer, her face round and smiling from behind our reflections in the double glass. 

E will be the voice of a bird, and two side characters before she reads all of Masha's lines. 
"Don't lie to me, Mr. Bear." She says, with a great pucker in her lips and her hands on her hips to help things sound convincing. 
There is laughter and a big thumbs up from the other side of the glass.
She cannot say "further". She says "fervor" instead. I show her how to stick her tongue out just barely to make a "th" sound, but then it sounds too self-conscious. We will come back and do this part again later. 

I am jumping around the little room and she is giggling. We are more than half-done already. I think of how many times I have recorded here and she sat waiting for me, raising her face every once in a while to tell me if I am reading too slow, or too sad. We have a shorthand of signs to tell each other things. I think we look like two extras from a Charlie Brown cartoon when we do this.

Later, with her crisp rubles in my pocket she squeezes my hand in the street.
"Maybe I can take you to lunch!" She announces.
"Save your money, kiddo." I tell her."Are you hungry?"
Her mouth twists around.
"A little." She says. "Maybe for that sandwich."
"Aha." I say. "And the chocolate croissant?"
She nods, knowing.
"Busted." I whisper even though no one can hear or understand us, as we cross a bridge over some train tracks.
She laughs, loud.
"I hope this is the stuff you remember." I tell her. "When you are older."
She elbows me.
"Of course!" She says in a big voice.

After lunch we decide to drop off some of my film to be developed at the lab that is a few stops from where we are. I buy two metro tickets because eight year olds are not free anymore. We stand in front of the little gate and a woman in a uniform waves us towards her. I tell her E is eight, even though she looks younger. The woman waves again, her yellow vest flapping around. E sneaks through the barrier she has opened for her. I pay for myself and we go down the escalator.
"Why didn't she want me to pay?" E asks me.
"For the same reason a different lady says you have to pay." I tell her. 
"I don't understand." She says.
"Well, the rules used to say kids of a certain age could go for free, and then they changed them so now the same kids pay." I explain. "One lady thinks that is right, this lady today thinks that it is silly."
"But is it right?" She asks me.
"We should pay for you." I say. "But I don't want to argue with some old lady either."
"It doesn't make sense." She says, half to herself.
A paper ball rolls down the barrier between the up escalator and the down one. 
"How many things in life make sense?" I ask her.
"Not a lot." She answers. "Like when we all have to sit inside at school if some of the boys act bad."
I nod, seeing we are almost to the bottom.
"And some of the girls too." She adds.
I laugh a little myself.
"What?" She asks.
"There is a difference between what makes sense and what is fair." I tell her.
"Tell me about it!" She interrupts, rolling her eyes.
"You are such a grown-up today." I tell her as we weave through the halls that lead to the platform.
"Don't worry, Pop." She says, looking up at me. "I still want to marry SpongeBob."


Comments

liv said…
hahahaha, priceless!

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