Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Young Friends

I drove slowly into the palace compound. It’s a public area open to locals and visitors, housing the botanic garden and local museum. Believe me, I had no desire of meeting royalties; all I wanted was to take a noon drive into the vast area I wished but never explored these many years.

I had intended to drive in further to seek out perhaps sturdy oak trees, outspread rain trees, tall loner trees. That plan was quickly abandoned upon seeing a group of kiddos playing softball in a little playfield; a small green area outlined by drainage submerged by thick overgrowth.

My abandoned plan was further reinforced by what greeted me and my guest
– friendly waves from richly tanned little hands; welcoming smiles otherwise perfect, save for a missing tooth or two. You get the picture.

I hung around the edge of the little playfield, watching the kids play. It was nostalgic, taking in the beauty and innocence of children at play at their favorite sport; however novice they may be at it.

Just a week ago I had a disturbingly strong desire to play softball. No working adult plays softball, I mean, where can I go to play? Back to my secondary school? Gatecrash into a nearby secondary school after school hours, hoping to catch kids playing softball and asking to join them? I had no avenue to play. But that desire never ceased. And now here I am watching a bunch of kids at their game.

Usually an extrovert, I was abashed to ask to join in their game. Perhaps they looked more than fine without an intruding stranger. Perhaps I was afraid I would ruin their game by batting the ball too hard, sending it high and off the play area.

Yet a distinct wave of inner joy swept over me, like a steady stream of warm water gushing forth from under the earth and overflowing to its surroundings. I was thrilled through and through. If it didn’t show on my face, it certainly did minutes later when I shed off all abashment and approached three little ones and asked to kick football with them. Perhaps I thought kids younger in age are easier to make friends with. I just wanted to indulge in a little piece of lost childhood here, alright? ;)

The little ones were extremely friendly and hospitable. I’m not sure if I could use the word “hospitable” to describe my new-found friends, but they certainly made me feel that way about them as I approached them, fished out my mobile phone and they came near to me; as if I was no stranger. I asked if they could smile for me, they did and did so willingly.

We wasted no time in getting straight to our ball game. Though small in size and clumsy still in their motor skills, my little friends exuded all they had as they kicked and snorted, ran and panted; eagerly at each kick turning to see if I saw how well they kicked. I made it a point to exclaim my praise and amazement at each kick, and you could see their small faces beam with pride and delight upon such exclamations.

Time always whiz by so quickly when you are enjoying it! I had to bid farewell. As I did, once of them cried out after me, “Will you come back?”

I said I will – tomorrow. He replied, “Ok, come tomorrow and I’ll teach you how to play.”

I grinned. Sure thing, kiddo. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’m looking forward to kicking ball with my three new friends aged 3, 5 and 7.

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