The figimaled two-year-old skuddled through the leaves blanketing the park. I watched him vicariously roll, jump, and throw downed leaves. His hair was puffed, knotted, and growing an assortment of leaves. His flannel shirt was now twisted awkwardly around his body and he had lost a shoe – although neither of these seemed to bother him.
His mother rustled through leaves until she found the shoe. She stood up with an exasperated look and noticed me watching. I passed her quick appraisal because she wandered over and struck up a conversation about Avasaanam. She linked the end of her life in Panama to the end of summer and the fall of the leaves. I’m sure it was a beautiful analogy full of poetic justice, but I was in awe of the children. My daughter approached the young boy – presumably with robust words of excitement – and he froze mid-stride, staring at her. The young mother laughed and called to her son, “Jaula gopeado, mi pequeno animal! Vive libre!” She told me he was cagestruck with the new world and went on to discuss how the arrived in America.
My daughter revealed an object, a teekva (she had called the small pumpkin all October after reading a Russian story at school), which the little boy carefully plucked from her hand. The children laughed, danced, and rolled in the leaves, tossing the small pumpkin back and forth. I told myself to focus on making a new adult friend and listen closer to the mother’s words. I introduced myself and asked if she would like to sit on the bench. We turned our backs for a moment to walk to the bench. By the time we sat down, her little ardle had stripped off his clothes and his diaper and had begun to pee on the nearest tree. She turned bright red and all but teleported to her son’s side, speaking harshly. I began wandering toward them, picking up a shirt and a shoe. She apologized profusely. “Maritza, he is a toddler. Boys will be boys. Appreciate the maganda of this child – unaware of social behavior, and sincere enough to dance with a complete stranger in the fall leaves. This is the magic of autumn in the U.S. Welcome to your Aarambham.”