She came up to me when I was sitting on the park bench. The one between the dogwood and oak trees. It was a brisk day. A hint in the air flirted with the fading winter. I suppose most people would be in their house on days like this. It certainly wasn't the type of weather for children. I figured she got cold while playing and was walking home.
"Hi, I'm Elli. How are you?" she said, assertively, as she plopped herself down on the opposite end of the bench.
"I'm good, I guess. You?"
"Grand", she answered.
I sat there staring ahead but I could tell she was making a fuss from her side of the bench. I looked over to make sure she was alright. In the ten seconds that I looked away, she had managed to pull a box of twelve crayons out of a pocket of her coat and set them beside her. The box was apparently a little too big for the pocket to hold. That's what the fuss was about. After she accomplished that task her small hands started to search around the other pockets of her coat. Her expression revealed her despair. She wore a perplexed face as she desperately looked around, searching for something. She paused and tried to figure out where she dropped her drawing paper. I know it was paper she lost because her spirits were lifted when she saw a short stack in my hands.
"Excuse me, ma'am?" she started.
"Could I trouble you for some paper? I seem to have misplaced mine."
"How old are you?" I asked as I handed her a sheet.
She said, "I'll be nine years old tomorrow."
"You sure do speak eloquently for an almost nine year-old", I said, pointing out the obvious.
"Yes, well, I've found that people take me more seriously if I talk older."
I let her get back to her drawing and sat there, alone with my thoughts. Then her words interrupted my concentration again.
"I wouldn't say today is beautiful."
I asked, "Why not?"
I was honestly confused. Compared to the 30 degree increase from a week or so ago and the birds present today… what's not beautiful about it? At least I knew where she was coming from. I must have given her the sheet I'd been trying to write a poem on.
"Beauty isn't something you can see. That's too superficial. Beauty is much deeper than that," she continued.
"What do you mean?"
I'm sure that if I wasn't dumbfounded by the quality of words coming out of her mouth, I could have figured it out for myself.
"Too many people use the term 'beautiful' too lightly. Same with love. People can be crushed by the whim of love even though its not true love, it's their superficial standard of love. As for beauty… beauty is only skin deep. For example, if a person is 'beautiful' by society's standards and they are beautiful at heart but later become 'ugly' on the outside and remain beautiful at heart, they aren't any less of a person. Take today, you just say today is beautiful because of the change in weather. But nothing extraordinarily beautiful has happened to change the lives of the people living in it. Beauty, in that sense, is a relative term."
As she spoke, I tried to take notes. After all, that's the original reason I was sitting here in this park, to write. I suspected she had given that speech before. She must have also found that it requires thought on the receivers end because she turned to her blank page and began coloring.
"Well then, what kind of day would it have to be in order for it to be considered beautiful?" I inquired.
She paused and thought about it for a while with me watching intently. She didn't answer me, but furthered her point.
"What is the most exciting thing that's happened to you today?" she questioned.
"I found out that my baby is going to be a girl", I replied, gesturing towards my stomach.
"Then why didn't you note that in your writing?" Elli asked.
"I didn't think it was relevant", I answered
She went on, "But it's beautiful, and since you're already talking about beauty, don't you think it goes together?"
"I suppose…" I answered.
"You can't base everything on the weather, you can't be blinded by it, either. If it was still cold outside, don't you think you would've written about your little girl or said the day was horrible?"
"I probably would have been writing about my little girl." I saw her point.
She turned back to her drawing. From my angle it stared to look like a blue butterfly. I studied her face while she drew. Her hair was an anonymous blonde with a few lighter streaks in it. Her eyes were a slate blue just like a lot of other people's were. Her nose was sprinkled with angel kisses, most of which will disappear with age. There wasn't anything very exceptional about her mouth or the rest of her face. To this day I still wonder if she knows she's beautiful.