she was about two feet tall with a cloud of fluffy dark curls and cocoa skin. cap’n crunch crumbs dotted her face and mixed with the alligator tears when her daddy left her for the outfield. and there I was, the stranger on the blanket next to her stroller, with my heart wanting to comfort her bewildered grief.
and at first, she was having none of that. I tried a soothing stroke on her ankle. No!
I said Okay. I won’t touch. Can you see your daddy out there? he’s just got to play ball for a bit, then he’ll be back for you. she went from hiding her face from me to a flat-out stare. I told her I’d get a smile out of her by the end of the game. my girlfriends told me she probably wouldn’t warm up to me.
but I just let her cry, looking her way every now and then to let her know I was paying attention, giving her a silly smile to see if I got any response, handing her cup back to her when it fell to the ground. but not coming on too strong.
After another visit from her daddy while his team was up to bat, she was my best friend. I don’t even remember the point of actual transition from distrust to surrender. but she climbed down from her stroller, standing on the ground with her feet between the footrest and the seat and seemed to decide that I was okay. she’d throw her toy, and I would catch it, she would grab my hands and squeal with delight as she swung my arms back and forth, speaking her personal brand of girlish glee. I had to keep one hand on the stroller to keep it from falling backward and taking her with it...unbalanced by the bags hanging from the handles. she eventually disentangled herself altogether and climbed on me to chase her toy. somehow, I had won her trust.
there’s something about winning the favor of a little child that I can’t even explain. but if you’ve been there, you know what I mean. the sullen glare of the beginning of the game was replaced with her forehead pressed to mine as she giggled and giggled and then turned and snuggled into my lap. bliss.
It is hard to trust strangers. Even in a safe setting, I tend to mistrust people's motives in being friendly. I'm glad I didn't give up on getting a smile out of my new friend. And I'm glad not everyone gives up on getting a smile out of me.