Pull up to my house and you’ll immediately know children live here.
The bikes, scooters, and roller skates littering the driveway might be your first clue. It also could be the 25 foot high tree house, complete with homemade rock climbing wall and fireman’s pole. Possibly it’s the hole in the yard under the tire swing in the maple which will inform you of the tiny inhabitants here. The glitter in the flowerbeds might tip you off. The hammock in the apple trees doesn’t necessarily scream “Children live here!”, but the humongous pile of cut off branches nee fort/climbing apparatus/hideout could.
A half buried pan, leaf covered glove, long abandoned boot hiding under the pussy willow near the door perhaps show that children live here. Cushions removed from the deck swing and piled under the fireman’s pole, jump ropes tied in the crab apple, muddy-ish, wet clothes hanging from the clothesline, sidewalk chalk art empty abandoned bubble bottles all make known those small and ever present humans we call our own. Doubtless the swing set and playhouse are dead giveaways, but the homemade wooden raft leaning on the windmill and the pile of mateless boots nearby may lead you in the right direction.
Come up to the front door, and…careful! Don’t trip on the many cottage cheese containers filled with sand and carefully lined up on the step and forgotten. Just step over the dolls and Cinderella slippers and Nerf guns lying abandoned on the stoop. Ring the bell, and listen for the chaos of “I’ll get it!” and thundering, laughing footsteps as the little people race to answer your call. Open the door and push aside the puppy toys, shoes, and jackets. Ignore the pile of gloves and scarves, and instead turn your glance upon the smiling shining small ones who as delighted to see you as they would be Santa.
Listen to their exuberant greetings, and lean in for the snippets of what’s important to them. They’re all talking at once, so you have to pay close attention. This one telling you about her loose tooth, that one describing how the puppy scratched her finger, the other one wanting to show the puzzle he’s been working on, while another one takes your hand in his small one to acquaint you with the rotating car track he invented.
You’ll likely see crumbs on the floor, spiderwebs in the doorways, toys and stray socks strewn among the books and crayons cluttering the floor and table. That’s how it is here. Ignore the (possibly intentional) chemistry experiment decorating the counter. Walk past the table littered with books, writing apparatus, likely a few attempts at paper airplanes and K’Nex motors, stickers and bits of torn up paper (always bits of torn up paper!) Accept the cup of coffee from me, settle yourself down on the couch (feel free to move that sweater and that toothbrush) and allow my children nestle into you as you open the book they’ve brought you. Revel in their solid warmth, and pudgy bodies.
Bend down and breathe in the scent of their sweet, likely sticky, faces, and notice how they smell like sunshine and snow. Touch their dandelion puff hair. Cup their petal soft cheeks in your hand as you listen. Join them in their smallness, and at the same time, in their larger than life vitality. Look into their trusting eyes and listen, while they talk and talk and talk.
Marvel at their innocence, their guilelessness. Wonder at the depth of their acceptance and love for you. Admire their cleverness and take part in their view of the world. Be inquisitive about everything they want to share with you. Be fascinated by their perspectives. Have no agenda.
Ignore the childish detritus which is so abundantly apparent when you approach my home. Pay attention to the children.
Look. Listen. Children live here.