Lessons from a child

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Our little neighbor, Zoe Hoffman, (I mentioned her in my last column) is especially endearing. She has the sort of radiant beauty of the Teletubbies “sun baby” but it’s always toned down with usual smudges from outside play, splashed with color from fruity drinks and candy. She can hold her own in a scrap with kids twice her size.

Zoe has always been extra petite for her age, yet I’ve seen her run the field across from my front door faster than anyone around. She takes the slag and stubby brown grass of this dry summer with her little barefeet and not a wince. She proudly shows us her scrapes and bumps which we have watched her handle without a fuss – unless her parents are watching. Then she tests their sympathy and doesn’t always get it.

Zoe can engage in lengthy conversations with me with pauses for thought in between “shooting the breeze.” She doesn’t seem bored like some children would be. She was describing directions they had taken on a family outing, and we must have looked at her skeptically. She emphatically replied, “Seriously!”

Our Josie has a special bond with Zoe that seems out of the ordinary between a 5- and a 14-year-old who aren’t siblings. They both look forward to time with each other. Josie told me a charming story of the first time she realized quite how much Zoe valued their friendship.

Soon after Jo had decorated her own room, she put up pictures of her best school friends. She had Zoe in for a visit to check out her new “space.” As Zoe took it all in, this look struck her as she noticed the pictures of those girls, and she said, “Why didn’t you tell me you had friends? This tugged Jo’s heart and she quickly responded, “Well, these are my school friends, but you are my special friend.” That seemed to make things right.

Zoe’s get well card for me came in a little envelope with her name on it (that’s the word she writes best, so far.) Inside was a drawing we thought was a strawberry. She set me straight about it the day she stayed with me after my accident.

“Those are clouds,” she pointed to three sections in her pictures that I thought were greens around the stem area. “It’s raining.” (Those were the dots that I thought were the hulls on the strawberry.)

“This cloud (far left) is darker,”she said, “and it’s raining harder and this one is less (middle), and this one (right) isn’t raining much at all.”

I thanked her again now that I knew what it was. Whether she knew it or not, it was just the symbolism I wanted to pick up on. It was raining hardest where I looked first on the left of her picture but as I followed across, the weather cleared – just like my aches and pains were going to do. What a perfect get well card!

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