But perhaps most meaningful was yesterday; my mother and I had a day together, which was very pleasant for me given the fact that I have not had the ability to do that with her for a while. We went to several different places and simply talked for a long while, which was wonderful, and then we finished off the day by going to our favorite nail place. We are friends with the owners and proprietors of this shop; indeed they have been mentioned on this blog before, in the famous "three wishes" scenario. We walk into the shop and are happily greeted by the owners, who have missed us, and I notice some other people I know and obviously walk over to wish them a good day, and then we sit down and wait a while before it is our turn.
As we are waiting, I notice two little boys sitting by one of the nail stations. They are clearly the owners' sons, Christopher and Henry. They look to be about seven and five, though you can give and take a couple of years for each one of them. Christopher is looking through an Atlas; I am later informed that he loves maps. Henry, on the other hand, is zooming around the room, claiming that he can fly. The lady in charge motions to me and I put away my cell phone as I stand and walk over to her. I look longingly at her boys and decide to talk to the one who is zooming about. "Henry," I call excitedly, "are you flying? Where are you flying?" Henry at first ignores me and wanders about, but later comes over to me. We begin a conversation. Henry tells me all about the fact that the Moon is broken. I am very distressed over this piece of news. "What is the Moon made out of?" I inquire. "It is made of light!" he answers immediately. "Well then, how shall we fix it?" I ask him, wondering how he shall respond. "What color is the light?" I continue. "It is made of white light!" he tells me, and then motions to the fluorescent lightbulbs in the nail shop. "We should take the lightbulbs to the moon to help put it back together?" I question. "That's a good idea!" he says happily, and agrees that this is how we shall manage to repair it. I now inquire about the status of the Sun. "What about the Sun; is it okay?" He nods determinedly. "Yes, the Sun is okay," he answers me.
He proceeds to tell me all about the man who can fly- he cannot describe his costume to me because it is dark outside and therefore he cannot see it- and how he flies all by himself; he has no wife or children. He flies at night and crashlands on the Moon, but the stars are sleeping at night. The stars wake up when the sun comes out. I listen to him carefully. By this point in time, Christopher has become interested in me; after all I appear to be great friends with his brother! Christopher comes to tell me about his coins, which he is counting, and his maps. I talk to him a little and then he goes back to his activities, while Henry decides to take a break and go flying about some more.
At this point I move to a different chair, and place my hands under the ultraviolet light in order to allow my nails to dry more quickly. I tell Henry to come over to me. His shirt is striped, and there is a white part of it that is glowing. "You're glowing, Henry!" I tell him and look up at him with one of my mischievous expressions. "No," he qualifies, looking down at his shirt, "the number seven is glowing." We argue about this, but he determines that it is the number seven that must be glowing, and not the entire white strip on his shirt. "What does the seven stand for?" I ask. He is so quick, this beautiful child; he starts counting people in the room- one, two, three, four, five, six, seven! I had not even noticed there were seven of us, all told! At this point I notice that another lady who is getting her nails done is listening attentively to my conversation with Henry. She is smiling from ear to ear. I am glad she is entertained by us.
"Henry," I say, and my voice is breathless, excited, "tell me a story." He thinks for a moment, and then proceeds to do so. He titles all his stories before he tells them, announcing "The Light That Was Shut Off" and then telling me the story to which this is referred. He also tells me that when he grows up he wants to be a Knight, so that he might save castles with princesses. He keeps on telling me stories, and tells me one that is perfectly beautiful which is entitled "The Flower That Was Not Growing."
- Once upon a time there was a flower. And the flower was growing and it came up in the summer and it flourished in the sunlight and grew beautifully. But then the flower saw the snow. And she was scared, and she decided to shrink back into the ground, very quickly, and that is what happens in winter. The flowers shrink back and then they grow again in the spring.
He kept on telling me stories, because once he had acquired me as a friend, clearly he was going to entertain me as long as I wished! He told me about how he loves fireworks and he went with his family to see fireworks at the beach (Christopher interjected that one can see fireworks in July.) He said that his friend was building a sand castle at the beach. I asked him whether he was aware that one needs water for sand castles, too? He said no, it's a sand castle! But I said of course you need water- for moats! And he said no, that was impossible- the water would be full of crocodiles and alligators and monsters, and the princesses would be scared! I said that would not happen, or that he could build a bridge. We continued in this vein, he and I, and we were very well matched.
Later he showed me how he could read letters and numbers and proudly read off the letters that spelled "NAILS" on the outside of the shop. He also read off "VISA" and looked up at me with this beautiful smile, expecting to be praised, which of course I did, as I did after he told me each story. "That was a wonderful story!" I said to him and requested that he tell me another, for I found them all fascinating- and of course he obliged.
His favorite stories revolve around castles, knights, teddy-bears and monsters. It was so wonderful to listen to him!
I told him that when I grow up I want to live in a castle. He said I can't do that because "you're just a girl." I said, "How do you know I'm a girl? Maybe I'm a princess!" He said no, it was quite clear that I was just a girl, and he was just a boy, and that I'm not a princess. I said maybe I live in a castle now and he doesn't see it. He said that castles are too high and where would it be? I said maybe in the sky, a castle in the air. He said that castles cannot fly, and besides I cannot fly. But perhaps I can fly! This is where he became very concerned for me. "No!" he says, clapping his hands together concernedly. "It is very dangerous to try to fly with your hands, because you cannot fly with your hands. It is too high and if you try it is very dangerous." Once I realized he was truly concerned for me, because he thought I might try it and might get hurt, I hastened to assure him that all was well and that I would not try to fly, after all.
He then decided to take out a bunch of Real Estate pamphlets and ask me where I lived. "My house is not in the book, Henry," I said, but he kept on pointing to them. I asked him to describe them to me and he described his house to me, which is his favorite place. I loved how vividly he could paint a portrait of where he lived and what it meant to him! Unfortunately during one part of his storytelling my mother was laughing- he was very offended by this and strictly informed him there was to be "No laughing!" "But Henry," I immediately qualified, "she is not laughing at you- she is laughing because she likes your story, and thinks it is interesting- perhaps you will write stories when you grow up!"
The best part was when he informed me that "My name in Spanish is Huey, but in English it is Henry. What is your name in Spanish, Olivia?"
"It's still Olivia," I answered.
"No, it cannot be!" he said quite strongly. "What is it?"
"It is- it's Olivia," I said again.
"Olivia, Olivia, Olivia," he sang. "It's not Olivia!"
My manicurist looked at me later and told me that I would make a very good teacher. She then requested that I be Christopher's teacher. Henry wanted to know why I couldn't be his teacher; it is probably because he does not yet go to school. I smiled at her and thanked her for the compliment. But there's more- I had requested that she give me flowers on my nails, two of them in fact. You know I like glittering and sparkling things, and I had gems in the middle of my flowers. These usually cost an extra $5-6 dollars. But she decided to give them to me for free, and it was quite clear that the reason why was because I had played with her children. Of course this was ridiculous, because I had such fun with them!
Henry wanted me to come back again, and I explained very clearly that I am going to go back to New York, so I will not see him for a while. He seemed slightly perplexed by this, but he shall be all right, I believe. In any case, I said goodbye to both of them, and hugged Henry and whirled him around the room and he said "Bye Olivia!" before I left. The lady who had been listening in on our conversation was still smiling as we walked through the door.
And this is the reason that it is such a joy for me to get manicures in Chicago! If only every store had such entertaining children; I felt so alive, preferring to talk to them than to the adults. Children, you see, are imaginative and inquisitive and purely good, and they can easily sense the people to whom they are attracted, and who enjoy their company. I felt so privileged that they came to me, and yet would not come to the other customers, even those who were my age! How beautiful they are; how wonderful are these out of all of God's creations.