Yesterday as I was attempting to leave the library, weaving my way through families with wayward children, I spotted a little spark of life who made me grin. Her mother was pushing a stroller, and 2 other young children dutifully trailed after her. But this one- this one suddenly stopped in the middle of the library lobby to execute a beautiful flip into a back bend, followed by a delighted wriggle and collapsing on the floor with her dress flipped over her shoulders. Mom turns around and gives an exasperated sigh of the little one's name. As she scrambles to her feet, I notice that while the other children, and their mother, are wearing sensible Saturday clothes, the object of my amusement is wearing a shimmering, ruffled dress complete with mismatched, print tights and fancy shoes. I recognized a kindred spirit in that instant, and I know from experience, that she wasn't going out of the house in anything less than her finest. We, as a group now, headed for the first set of doors, the other two children followed their mother to where I held open the door clearly marked, "exit". My little friend marched up to the door on the left and pushed as hard as she could, her little feet braced out behind her and all of her might aimed at that entrance door. Her brother, who couldn't have been more than a year older, turned and exclaimed her name, bringing her into line with the rest of the family. Only after trying the door thoroughly, was she willing to follow the beaten path.
Everything about her suggested that she is and always will be, emphatically, her own person. She will not be a trend follower, nor, even, a trend setter, but her own unquenched person.
When do we become so grown up and responsible that we bury the urge to do a flip in the middle of the library? Or jump to hit things hanging from the ceiling? Or just wiggle while we walk down the hall? When did we start avoiding puddles instead of stomping in them, and start worrying that our socks match our shirts and our outfits don't stand out any more than they should? When did we stop wearing the clothes that REALLY delight us and help define who we are?
That age differs for everyone, I'd imagine, but what if we started making the effort to recapture that personal style? Imagine us in our painfully adult bodies, complete with aching joints, stiff necks, push up bras, pointed shoes, tight ties, constricting suit jackets, and coiffed hair... imagine us coming to work one day wearing our favorite things, whether they match or not, and doing headstands or cartwheels down the hallway, instead of rushing to where we have to be. Imagine us with our hair in pigtails or just as it was when we rolled out of bed, as we trail down the hallways running our fingers over the texture of the walls, or jumping to whack leaves under which we walk, and using our faces to show our every emotion, rather than hiding it in polite smiles and shifted eyes.
Take it even farther. We sing the songs that are running through our heads, and we abandon tasks that bore us. We kick off our shoes and sit on the grass, regardless of grass stains. We jump in that drifted snow instead of avoiding it, and rather than worrying about how we look when we walk, we return to the joys of skipping, sliding, hopping, or galloping as we go about our day.
Wouldn't that be something? I may be a teacher, but I sure have a lot to learn from a 4 year old in a shimmery, ruffled dress doing flips in the library.