Thursday, December 23

a small following

I’ve said that sometimes I scare babies. I make them cry. I send them running away from me, calling for their mommies.

But I don’t scare all babies.

There is a magical age somewhere after awareness and beyond fear, when curiosity wins out, and children become magnetically drawn to me; they can’t help themselves. And I’ve gained a small following; that is, the under-three-foot crowd.

I visited one such small fan yesterday at my childhood friend Nichole's home. The last time I saw this little darling, she was a little muppet barely able to walk. She’s closing in on three now, but not much taller than my knee.

After she finishes hiding behind the window curtains of shyness, she notices one of my arms is not ordinary.

“She loves anything tiny,” her dad explains. And she does. At first she just stares from a distance. Then she comes closer. Then closer. Until she works up the courage to reach out and shake my little hand. And it's all over. She touches it, she kisses it, she wants to hold it. I suddenly feel that the rest of my body is sorely inconvenient to her.

At the lunch table, she sits next to me in her booster seat. She hands me a lime.

“No, it’s for her,” she indicates, pointing to my smaller appendage. Even this two-year-old understands that my arm has its own personality.

“This is Finneas,” I hear myself saying. “Finneas!?,” she squeals, incredulous and delighted.

Children often want to know why my arm is smaller than the average. But this little one never asks. A person with a tiny hand came to her house today; and she’s simply in love.

“Isn’t it cool,” I say. She nods, eyes twinkling. This is the age when belief comes easily, untarnished by judgement.

“What if we all had one little hand?,” I pursue, "Wouldn't that be cool?". She nods enthusiastically. And her big brother, entering the outer edge of the magical age at six, is now drawn in. He pulls one arm into his sleeve to test the hypothetical. We discuss how tables might be higher, or forks much longer, if this were the case.

As the afternoon progresses, my small follower is distracted with play and various craft projects. But periodically she looks up, catches a glimpse of Finneas beneath my sleeve, runs over, and reaches up to grab hold of him. When I’m standing, she has to stretch her arm to its full extension.

I confess to waving my little arm at her from time to time, bribing her interest, luring her close enough to scoop her tiny body up in my arms. I miss the days when she needed me to carry her.

Sitting next to me, she leans over, pulls Finneas gently to her, and plants a soft kiss on his skin. I feel undeserving, part of a moment nothing short of holy.

This little girl isn’t the first; I remember another two-year-old from long ago. Danielle was Nichole’s foster sister when we, too, were children.

She came to live with Nichole and her parents when she needed a safe place to be; but as far as we were concerned, she was our sister. She called me ‘Tawkie,' a reinvention of my name in toddler speak. She, too, had stars in her eyes when she saw my little arm.

One day, hands joined around the table, Danielle says, “I sure I tan have a little hand, too"; an impossible wish, but the sincerest form of flattery.

I expect I’ll continue to draw fans. And as long as they follow me, I’ll continue to welcome their attention, treasure their admiration, and affirm their innocent openness.

What if we all had one little hand?