Sunshine child with laughing eyes

2008-02-08 00:00

Someone asked me how my stories germinate. I replied, “Something triggers it, like a seed that suddenly ripens and sends out a little shoot. After that it grows into a robust bean stalk.”

One can never create a story. It creates itself. One can’t lie in the bath contemplating one’s navel and beseech the words to flash across the bathroom tiles, or lie under a tree squinting at sun rays, waiting with miserable hope.

A story often pops into my head at the most inopportune moment, like when I’m burning the clutch in a traffic jam. I simply think … “Oh …. I hope I don’t lose that magic light-bulb thought before I can get home to scribble it down.”

The most precious child crossed my path today. She glowed far brighter than any light bulb. Just visualising her now makes my heart ache with a mixture of love and compassion.

Tiny for her age, with the lower front two teeth characteristically lost to the tooth fairy, she bounded in, her oversized school bag weighing her down. As her rush of radiance blew through the entrance, I found myself experiencing a sort of epiphany.

She hugged me effortlessly, making me overwhelmed by her implicit trust. She instantly made herself at home, pulling off my sandals to play “This little pig went to market” with my pink-painted toes. Tiring of my toes, she picked up my two round-eyed rag dolls, each almost as big as her, tucked one under each arm and took them on a route march around the room, all the while chattering to them with maternal clucks.

The feelings which I experienced wrote the story for me. I didn’t need to ponder. The words wanted to empty out all over the room to express my turmoil.

So much in life makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. There are so many children who don’t get a square deal in life, so much so that I think that humanity has developed a somewhat naïve and fantastical ideology about childhood.

Yes, it should be a paradise.

My sunshine child with laughing, downward-slanting eyes broke any bubble on the fantastical childhood theory. But I think what flabbergasted me more was her astonishing resilience; her profound “altogetherness” that brimmed over like an image of unsullied joy.

She left me with a smile and a hug. I couldn’t help wondering what magic tree she’d eaten fruit from to make her so okay, when there are so many foot-stamping, indulged miniature adults around.

The sunshine girl is HIV-positive. Her alcoholic “lady of the night” mother had a wicked boyfriend. He got the better of her when she was a little mite of three. She lives in foster care now, where she’s become a treasured soul. A real child.

And every smile she gave me was like a gigantic dose of serotonin.

• Eve Hemming is a local educationist.

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