Thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty – Ready or not here I come!
Rhythmic one-two-threes of pitter-patter feet on the Arizona sunburnt ground, running away when I get too close to their hiding spot. I'll pretend not to see them, turning away at just the right moment.
You can't hide for long!
The overgrown bush next to me giggles uncontrollably, shaking with laughter at my apparent inability to find a group of under-ten year olds. I smile and walk forwards slowly, turning at the last moment and pouncing on my prey.
I found you!
The little five-year-old girl comes out from behind the bush pouting. She confesses her confusion at my now apparent ability, to find her first every single game. It would help I thought to myself smiling, if she didn't hide in the same place every time.
You can help me find everyone else if you want.
Mystifyingly happy again, the small girl runs off calling to the other hidden children. Her hair, tied back in skinny braids, flows out behind her like little wings. She so desperately wants to fly. I run after her, tripping on my feet as I do so. No longer am I small and agile and no longer am I excited to run around outside. I am a victim of time and growth.
Hey! Wait up for me!
Finally catching up to her, I see her peeking over the side of small wall. Giggling once more, the little girl points at her find and jumps up and down taking my hands and twirling herself about – proud of her accomplishment. I remind her there are still four more people to find. She runs off in search of the others as I help the little boy out from behind the wall. I motion after the little girl.
Why don't you help her?
As the night goes on the remaining hiding children are found and the game is changed to tag. I spend most of the game by the base watching the children run, shout for joy, and dissolving into laughter at the one girl who kept getting tagged – poor thing. I feel a tug on my arm and see the little five-year-old girl of the giggling bush. She begs me to tell her a story. I'm taken by surprise. She's not really the type of little girl I would imagine sitting down next to me and listening to a story. She asks me again and plops down on the ground by my feet.
I don't really know any good stories…
She smiles and pulls on my leg for me to sit down. I do so, slowly. The sun has gone down now; the ground isn't hot any longer. Or less hot, I should say. Things here are never not-hot.
But I told you, I really don't know any good stories.
She shrugs and tells me to make one up. But that would require imagination; the word itself is outdated in our day and age. I try everyday to desperately use it, placing together words and phrases, trying to create something worth reading. But in the end I usually fail. And anyways, the things I attempted to write were short, twisted poems of things a five-year-old didn't need to worry about.
I…I don't know if I can do that.
She frowns at me and suggests I tell a story about when I was her age. When I was her age?
When I was your age, things were perfect.
Her eyes open wide and she edges closer to me, pleading for me to continue. I wasn't aware my one sentence introduction was such a hook for a little girl. But either way, I told her about my life as a little five-year-old. I told her about my best friend, and how for some odd reason we always came to school wearing the same clothes. We assumed that it must mean we were meant to be best friends. In the later years of my life, my mother confessed to me that she and my best friend's mother called each other the night before and would plan out what we would wear to school.
There was this boy - I think his name was Skye, I don't really remember. Anyways, I was under the impression that I would have to marry him because he was the only other Jewish boy in my kindergarten. He wasn't exactly thrilled with this idea.
She giggles and I smile. There was another boy I recalled who tried to give me a plastic ring to confess his love. I remember that ring, it was pink, a horrible bright pink that made me want to puke. It had two giant goggly eyes on it, except one of them fell off. I politely told him that I just couldn't be with him because he wasn't of my religion. I don't really remember conversing with him after that.
And there was this one time that I got this rash –
But I'm cut off. The little girl's mother is calling and my memories are put on pause. She gets up and gives me a quick hug, her face shining. As she skips away the memories begin again to surround me and I can't help but smile. To be young again…
That would be nice.