Years ago when I was serious, too serious in fact, about my training as a runner, I put that first. I would run about ninety miles a week. I ran to and from my job as a teacher, which did save the expense of another automobile for my family, but it took time away from my family. While I did not race every weekend, I did run every day. I forfeited one of two gifts no human can afford to lose, and I lost it by choice. I did have time with children, but I also missed time with them, such as the fun and lazy morning I shared this morning with our three-year-old neighbor.
In the fall like cool of this July morning, I went out to my stationary bike intent on a smooth, long, and at times, fast ride. The bike set, I began the warm-up, but I heard the soft voice of Sweeney calling me. I turned to the direction of her house and saw her running across the grass, barefoot and wearing a pink summer dress. Rich, dark curls of hair swam in the summer morning as she ran, calling my name. As she neared I noticed something clutched in her small, left hand. She arrived at my side telling me that she had a “treasure” for me. I stopped and did as she told me: eyes closed and hand out, I opened them to see a small, black and grey feather resting in my palm. Jumping with glee, Sweeney said that she would put it in her “treasure box.” All plans for the morning changed then, and we entered the shop and took the wooden box Doug gave me to her house. It would be her box for wood scraps, but she wanted to decorate it with her sidewalk chalk. As we walked to her house, we looked for more feathers, but no birds had obliged us. However, as her mother and baby brother watched, she colored the box in favorite colors—green, pink, and blue. Mother then stayed home to feed brother his breakfast, and we returned to my house to paint the driveway in chalk. Intent on her creations, she used all colors and drew a fine self-portrait. When Brandon came along walking his dog Scout, Sweeney stopped her drawing and introduced herself to them. Brandon took a piece of chalk to show her how to draw a curved line by drawing only straight line. Sweeney did not seem overly impressed, but I will go out later to look at that drawing again. We then decided to go to Doug’s and create some art on his drive, and for an added bonus, Sweeney got to go into his greenhouse. She came out with two large blueberries, a mint leaf, and one sage one. Asked to save one blueberry for her mom, she did what any three-year-old will do, and upon saying “No,” ate them both as she smiled from curls to curls.
Returning to our home, she helped water the hostas in the front, and I had forgotten how a child can play while she is performing what we adults view as a job. Mom came over in time for the rainbows in the hose mist, wet sun-dress, and some dirt. Plants watered, in a fashion, we entered the shop for some necessary pounding of nails and drilling of wood scraps. Sweeney impressed Mom by her skill at the drill press and of driving nails.
Time well spent helping her neighbors, Sweeney announced to Mom that she wanted to go home and eat breakfast. After all, how much can one little lady do in one morning?