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Little Me

July 7, 2013

I held my empty venti cup in my hand and looked around while I waited in line. It was late afternoon on a Saturday, and the coffee drinkers were starting to come in by the dozen.

I looked at the rows and rows of sandwiches, fruit cups, cookies, marshmallow bars, and bagels. The little girl in front of me did the same. I watched her run her fingers over gleaming yogurt cups. I looked down to see that she was holding a prepackaged brownie in her hand.

She was probably no more than seven years old. Her blond hair fell neatly past her shoulders in delicate waves. I looked away briefly, and when I looked back, she had pulled it into a neat ponytail. She was gripping onto a Blue Jays baseball cap; I could see that it was holding some change.

The line moved.

She looked at the juice boxes and took a pink one into her hands to look at it. Then she put it back. She looked at the juice boxes for a few more seconds before reaching out to turn some of them around so that the labels were facing forward.

I smiled to myself.

We were approaching the cash. She reached out and took the prepackaged madeline cookies into her hand. Then she put the prepackaged brownie back.

It was her turn. The barista greeted her.

Can I have an ice water please? Oh, and this cookie.

He told her, of course. She emptied her hat onto the counter. Quarters, nickels, and dimes spilled out. The barista started counting.

I looked down at her and smiled again. I couldn’t help it. She was so mature, yet so obviously innocent that it reminded me of my younger self.

The barista counted her nickels, dimes, and quarters and told her that she didn’t have enough money. She stood there for some moments, not understanding what to do next. I told the barista that I would cover the difference. I only wish now that I had told her to keep her nickels, dimes, and quarters and that I would pay for her entire cookie.

She looked at me with her big blue eyes and said, Thank you in a sweet, tiny voice, and after I said, you’re welcome, she ran away with her cookie and ice water.

And that was that. It made me happy to help her pay for her cookie, but even as I was waiting for my refill on my ice tea, I felt a little sad. I remember being her age, so innocent that it was freeing. But that innocence, when looked upon with age, can seem almost tragic. Blake knows this well and draws our attention to it in his Songs of Innocence and Experience.

I remember being small, young, and generally afraid of adults. I remember scanning all of the pretty things on the shelves and wondering whether I had enough coins in my pocket for one of those sparkling things. I remember happiness and disappointment. That, I remember well.

Even though that seven-year-old girl had wavy, shoulder-length blond hair, blue eyes, and white skin, and I, as a seven-year-old girl, had short, boyish black hair, brown eyes, and tanned yellowish-brown skin, I saw a little of that asian girl in this girl in front of me.

And as that little girl ran away, I wished for her all of the happiness and innocence in the world. I wished for her not to worry, and not to grow up too quickly. I wished for her to be remain a child for as long as her childhood days, and I wished for her to dream big dreams and to never know what it means to be disappointed. But most importantly, I wished that she would always have someone there to help her in her time of need–to help her cover the difference.

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