Me and my shadow
Around 5:30 Saturday afternoon the most amazing thing happened. The entire world stopped — at least for one little girl.
Little One noticed her shadow for the very first time, and her reaction was something totally unexpected. There was nothing to be afraid of. There was really nothing there, but just try and explain that to a 13-month-old whose only words are Mommy, Daddy, kitty and — my favorite — duck.
At first, Little One tried to make friends with the new person that had somehow magically and silently come across her path. She gave the shadowy stranger right in front of her a pinwheel wave, something she had perfected just a week earlier.
Surprisingly, and to her delight, the figure pinwheel-waved back. For a moment she smiled, but only for a moment. For you see, in mid-wave, her new friend faded and then quickly disappeared. High above our heads, a cloud had passed in front of the sun.
As we continued on our walk, Little One pulled away from the security of my hand. She spent the next five minutes tottering up and down the sidewalk in front of Big Papa’s house.
Then, as suddenly as her new friend disappeared, rays of light streamed through the clouds and she suddenly reappeared! Only this time she was much taller, and much scarier. Little One now noticed the new friend was somehow connected to her feet and possibly not even a friend at all.
Now frightened, Little One tried to sidestep the elongated shadow of a girl and get her to release the hold on her feet. The shadow followed each move she made.
Not understanding, she turned and ran in the opposite direction, thinking she could outrun the stranger. She couldn’t.
When she turned back around the stranger was still with her, but now distorted by the clouds. This was just too hard for a 13-month-old to understand.
As tears started to fall down her face, I hurried over to give comfort. Little One quickly grabbed ahold of my leg and wouldn’t let go. Soon dark rainclouds blocked the sun once more and the stranger disappeared for good.
With the danger now gone, I picked up the frightened Little One and wiped away her tears. After reassuring her with hugs and kisses all was safe once more, we made our way back inside. Diaper had to surely be changed, then dinner, a bath with a tub full of ducks while listening to the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” and then finally bedtime.
It’s not every day you survive an encounter with your shadow — an eventful and exhausting day for someone so small.
To witness childhood innocence on display right in front of you is truly a wonderful thing. I reveled in it as a parent of The Boy and do even more so now as a grandparent.
What a shame that, as we grow up, most of us grow out of being able to see through the amazing eyes of a child.
How different would the world be if the most important things were still pinwheel-waving at strangers, making friends with everyone who crossed our path, and saying things like Mommy, Daddy, kitty, and — of course – duck.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. His books are available at www.RickRyckeley.com.]