"I must go for my walk before it rains some more," I told my friend whom I was chatting to on facebook. As I got up, Andrew announced, "I must go for a walk."
When it's exercise, we don't walk together because I do more of a power walk thing. So I told him I'd head down to the beach, leaving him to the tree-lined nature strips.
Recently the tide has been high at this time and the ocean wild. Today, in a bit of sun between rainstorms, the sea wasn't right up to the edge of the cliff; there was some beach to walk on. I was going to turn left as usual, but paused and went right instead. The waves were sunlit and glowing. I stopped and picked up a black stone with white wavy lines on it like a sketch of the sea. It will become one of the "gratitude rocks" I give away at the markets.
There were some kids climbing up the sandy cliff and dropping down again, and a man on the cliff top above them, talking on a mobile phone. As I straightened from picking up the stone, tucking it into the pocket of my yellow raincoat, the smallest child stopped, lifted his hand and waved at me, smiling broadly. He was a little Chinese boy, maybe three or four, with his hair in a tiny pigtail and wearing a Chinese outfit of loose shirt and pants. He was gorgeous! It wasn't that he was especially good-looking, but his little round face was alight with joy.
I waved back, and when I drew near I stopped and asked, "What's your name?" He just laughed and ran back to the cliff. He wasn't scrambling up and down it like the bigger kiddies, but playing at the bottom with a girl just a little older than him. He kept looking at me, smiling. I smiled back and went power-walking on.
I reached the end of the beach, turned and started marching back. The little girl, oblivious of me, picked up a stick and ran with it to the water's edge. The little boy ran after her. For a moment I was a bit worried about such littlies going so close to the big waves unsupervised, then they ran back to the cliff, both laughing. But he saw me coming, hesitated, then stopped in my path grinning expectantly, looking positively thrilled. Seeing this, she came back to where he was. At first she half-hid behind him, but I must have passed muster because she came out and stood beside him, smiling at me too.
I couldn't help it, I just started giggling openly – not with amusement but pure joy. At which they too broke into happy giggles. It was a kind of open collusion between us, as if we were sharing some delicious secret. I longed to fold them both in a big hug, but mindful of child abductors and pedophiles, just stood there with my arms wide and said, "You beautiful children!" and we all beamed at each other some more.
"Where do you come from?" I asked him, speaking to myself really, wondering about his origins; but he pointed to the other children at the cliff. "Is that your brother?" I asked, following the pointing finger. "Yes," he said, and I realised he was Aussie-Chinese, second or third generation at least. The little girl, in fact, wore Aussie clothes, had long, curly, tousled hair, and didn't look particularly Asian except for her almond eyes. The little boy pointed higher as the man at the top of the cliff came into view again, still talking on his phone but also observing the children. "Is that your Dad?" I asked, knowing the answer even as they nodded. Ah, so they weren't unsupervised; good.
They hadn't stopped beaming at me as if I was their favourite person in the whole world, and the expression on my face must have been exactly the same as theirs. "I have to go now," I told them, "Bye-bye," and I waved my hand. She gave me a last smile and a happy wave, then ran back to her siblings. He stood and waved his hand enthusiastically. When I looked back after a few steps, he was still watching me. "Bye-bye," he called clearly, waving again, still with the delighted grin; and I did the same, then went on my way - yes, rejoicing.
And that's all. But what an all! I don't know what it was about me that so appealed to this lovely kid, and I don't even want to taint the experience with attempts at explanation. It was what it was – an exchange of absolute joy in each other, and I know that those brief but powerful moments will continue to enrich me all my life. I feel as if God came and smiled on me. (There's been a bit of that lately; watch this space.)