A small story about a small love
“the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter.”
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
My son had his heart broken for the first time. He is six.
He went on a cruise with his abuelitos and two younger sisters. There the kids gathered around a jacuzzi — the pool was not heated you see, and kids love few things in this world more than warm water.
There stood a girl dominating the arena. Splashing the other kids, they fled the milieu. My boy jumped in and splashed back. They splashed and jumped and fell and laughed. Before long they were scampering hand-in-hand to the waterslides.
For the rest of the morning they were inseparable. Running on-deck. Sliding down waterslides. Warming on a sunbed, giggling.
When the girl’s grandma came to collect her away my boy was ready with a cunning plan. He asked for their room number.
With a tip from his abuelo, he figured out the room phones. One of those fixed line phones that are quickly following the rotary phone into antiquity. He dialed the girl’s room. Hello? Do you remember me? We played outside. Let’s meet at the waterslides. And so they spoke and they played. The six year old boy and the seven year old girl. All that day and then the next.
His sister — my eldest daughter now five— was not pleased. Where my son is a gentle if rough boy with an emotional — sulky, really — temperament, my daughter is a ballerina with sharp eyes. Who was this girl who had taken her brother from her? And who did her brother think he was? She was the only game in town. And so my daughter took this girl by the hand and scrammed.
This time it was the girls who ran hand-in-hand and embraced and giggled words of affection to one another. And jeered at my boy, who stood aside — rebuffed, confused and angry. Hurt.
I suppose the same impulse to wound that grabbed his sister so grabbed this girl, as they showered each other in affection and ignored, jeered, and expelled him.
She stole her, my son would later tell me about his sister.
Look at what they did to my beautiful boy. How they put boys and girls in the same class is beyond me. Like lambs to the lions.
My father-in-law chuckled and smiled as he told me. But with at least as much heartache as anything else. It was no small moment for my boy. This rocking-horse was a big-boned Irish hunter to him. And in the boy’s small heartbreak, I think my father-in-law and I saw something similar: nothing less than the first tears in the fabric of a man’s soul. We have our patches and stitches — he of his 60-odd years, me of my 30-odd. And now my boy tasted a small measure of what lay ahead.
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