357. Shining Moments

I have a friend named Ann who is eight years old. She comes to my apartment each day during the summer, and though I am neither her parent nor her teacher, I get a chance to be a little of each when she’s here. Her parents are also becoming my friends. They don’t really need much time away from their daughter; Chou, Ann’s mother, works at home, and enjoys being with Ann. They consider me someone their daughter likes to spend time with. Ann’s father, Ha, sometimes does my dishes for me, and Chou sometimes cooks me a delicious Vietnamese dinner. I think they are grateful that I’m Ann’s friend. I hope they realize that I’m grateful, too; I’m not sure the “thank you” I utter at the end of our afternoon together can possibly convey the depth of my gratitude.
When Ann is here, sometimes we work on a book she’s writing. It’s about the adventures of two Easter bunnies. She types on my computer, making up the story as she goes. If she’s unsure how to spell a word, and it can’t be sounded out (e.g., “sure”), I help her with it. I remind her about capitalizing names and first words in sentences. As we go, she lets me know how much she wants me to be involved; usually, she wants me to just read as she writes.
Sometimes she draws, plays piano, sings, or dances. She’s artistic, musical, and graceful. Once in a while, we play a game, toss a frisbee, or just talk. I never have to plan the day, the way I would if I were going to spend time with several children, or with a child who is more of a challenge. The decisions about what Ann and I will do next are pretty spontaneous.
I’m forty years older than Ann, and once in a while, my age or health is a factor; she feels like standing on my recliner, and I don’t let her, or it’s too hot for me to go outside, even though it’s not too hot for her. But she usually has a pretty good idea of what my limits are, and she seems comfortable with them.
We’ve agreed to be friends for the rest of our lives. Sometimes two children make such vows, and being children, neither one of them has a well-developed sense of the future, although such vows can still be kept. But at the time I’m writing this, I’m forty-eight years old. I intend to be Ann’s friend for the rest of my life, although I may not be available when she’s ninety.
The way our society is set up, the friendship Ann and I have is an exception; children’s friends – at least the kind they spend lots of unstructured time with – are usually children. That’s too bad; I think there’s a lot to be gained through this kind of cross-generational friendship.

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