Playfulness 

A long time ago, when I was four or five years old, we went to visit family friends. My father’s best man and his wife had just had their second son.  There was much cooing and gushing, and sycophantic baby worshipping.  I turned away.  Noticing my disinterest, the proud mother beckoned me over.

“Don’t you think he’s sweet?’ she simpered.

“ No he’s horrid,” I replied, “ Just like his big brother!”

“And when they grow up they’ll still be little boys!”  I protested.

Fortunately, my parents had been too far away to witness my rudeness.

The mother cried with laughter, tears splashing down her face.  I had no idea why. I was not contributing to the battle of the sexes, or belittling men. I was completely  oblivious to all that.  All I wanted were some girls to play with, not a red, wrinkly, boy baby and his boring brother.

Recently, Chris had a significant birthday. One, we decided, we could not  let glide by with a bottle of supermarket wine, an over- scented candle and  James Taylor  murmuring mellifluously in the background.

Chris scratched his remaining hairs for a while, before coming up with a plan.  We would go to his hometown, visit his family, eat a hearty lunch and –  fire off rockets!   I thought it a little unconventional, but I was up for the celebration.  Then, I shared the idea with a couple of friends who, a little to my surprise, shook their heads  in disbelief and said,

“Men will always be little boys!”

February was a somber month.   I spent much of it in bed, being lashed by the ‘flu.  The weather, for northern Florida, was cool, gray and rainy. US  presidential politics were dispiriting.  People were freezing to death fleeing the war in Syria with no place to shelter. A gunman massacred market-goers in Germany. Venezuelans had to search the garbage for food, homelessness hit record highs in California.  Fear of the Coronavirus gripped the globe.  The news was relentlessly depressing.

Our new kitten knows nothing of all this.  Her chief aim in life is to propel herself from a great height onto our older cat to provoke him to “play” with her.  She has little concept that he is at several times taller and heavier than she!  Her zest for life is irresistible.

Once I had arisen from the death clutches of the ‘flu, we took a gentle walk (in a howling gale) to the harbor.  Since we moved here, it has been silted up, but now has been dredged, and renovated, and many boats have returned.  It was invigorating to hear the masts clanging in the wind, the creaking of the hulls, and the slap, slap of sea against jetty.  I marveled at the intricacy of the ropes (sheets?), and the gleam of chrome and lacquered and polished deck.  Yet  – most of all, we enjoyed the names of the boats, where the owners had indulged in a little playfulness. Amongst the trawl were, “Foolish Pleasure”, “Cat’s Meow”, “Seas the Day”, “Never Better”,  and, perhaps best of all, “She said Yes!”

It would have been enough to share Chris’s birthday simply with family and friends, but the playfulness of the rocket launch gave a memorable lift to the occasion. Broad smiles and loud exclamations of “Wow!“  bursting from old and young will forever preserve this moment. When times are tough it’s especially good to find a balance between living responsible, dedicated lives and embracing a little playfulness.

And I, for one, can cheer the prescience of my youthful self that,

“When they grow up they’ll still be little boys!”

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