It is common knowledge that being a college student is tough. Money is hard to come by, and when you do come by it, you most certainly don’t want to spend it on anything menial. Thus, it is not hard to find college kids who live on entirely unhealthy food and, gross though it may sound, who walk around in clothes that have already been worn once. (Insert gasp of horror here.)
I have come out on the better end of this deal. I go to school where I have an abundance of family and friends. There is a definite advantage to attending a college close to relatives and friends. Aside from getting to see them more, which is generally a good thing, you can also bum off them when you’re hungry and do laundry for free. You get extra brownie points if you babysit little cousins, do dishes, and walk the dog while you’re at it. All in all, I consider it a very good deal. And so it was that a few nights ago my cousin and I loaded up her car with laundry and backpacks full of homework and set out to do laundry at our aunt and uncle’s house.
Once we had gotten a load of laundry going, my cousin immediately set off for her little corner upstairs, the only place that she could concentrate on her homework. I curled up on one of the loveseats downstairs and began to study as well.
Now, bear in mind that my aunt and uncle have two children, one of which is my little 4-year-old cousin I call Lexi. I had not been studying long when I heard her high, childish voice ask, “Where are the girls?”
I laughed inwardly. Though she is only four, she often talks and acts like she’s much older. This was one of those times. I heard her ask the question again, this time more emphatically, so I called, “Lexi, I’m in here!”
In a moment my little cousin stepped into the room. She leaned up against the couch shyly as I said, “Hey, Lex. How are you today?”
She grinned sheepishly.
“What have you been up to?”
Still an awkward grin.
I already knew what she really wanted. She wanted my other cousin, the one I had come with, who I will call A for now. A is much more energetic than I am, and so if Lexi wants a playmate, she will usually find that in A. Nonetheless, I was bound and determined to get some sort of response. So, I used the old trick my grandmother and mother used on me when I was little. I smiled at Lexi, leaned forward, and asked, “Did the cat get your tongue?”
Immediately she burst out into giggles. I smiled, then repeated, “Did that kitty get your tongue?”
“No,” she laughed, with that tone that people get when they can’t believe you just asked that ridiculous question.
Just then A came down the stairs. Lexi’s eyes brightened and in a moment A had whisked her up into her arms. I just smiled. I wasn’t surprised. To a kid, I’m no fun.
What A and Lexi did for fun, I’m not sure. However, my aunt had soon prepared supper, then rushed out the door for a meeting, leaving A and myself to watch the two kids. We talked and played and had a very fun time. I, in particular, was enjoying the food, which was dramatically better than the cafeteria food I would have to live on for the rest of the week.
One by one, A and Lexi’s brother finished eating and slipped away from the table, leaving Lexi and I by ourselves.
“Lyn, will you play with me?” Lexi asked.
I looked up at her from my heaping plate of food and groaned inwardly. I was already sore from walking five miles that day as part of my PE class, and I rarely have a lot of energy to start with. But I knew A had to study (ah, the life of a nursing major) and I didn’t have any homework left. With A already keeping an eye on the laundry, I figured the nice thing to do would be to entertain the little energizer bunny. So, I finished my food and took her outside to the trampoline.
“I’m gonna show you how high I can jump,” Lexi said as I lifted her onto the trampoline.
“Okay,” I smiled, leaning against the edge. I was glad I wasn’t having to jump.
As she bounced, I suddenly got the urge to sit on the trampoline instead of stand. Maybe it was me being lazy or, maybe, it was that watching her stirred some ounce of energy and childish nature somewhere deep inside me.
I watched her for a while, then she asked, “How high can you jump?”
After as much as I had eaten just a few minutes before, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. But I remembered how much I used to enjoy bouncing on a trampoline, so I stood up and took a flying leap. I came down hard on the trampoline, sending my little cousin sailing upward. She laughed as she bounced back down. We continued this for a while until my stomach told me that it had had quite enough bouncing for one night.
Then Lexi said, “Let’s play ‘Mommy, Mommy, Come Alive’.”
“Mommy, Mommy…” I began, then I grinned. Oh. That’s what my friends and I used to call “Mummy, Mummy, Come Alive”. Her version was less disturbed and I wasn’t about to tell her where the game came from.
We played this for a while, then she got bored again.
“I wanna play Little Red Riding Hood, now,” Lexi said.
“Okay,” I replied hesitantly, “how do you play that?”
“You be the Big Bad Wolf and I’ll be Little Red Riding Hood.”
Big Bad Wolf…that’s fitting. “Okay. What does the Big Bad Wolf do?”
“He goes grrrr and chases Little Red Riding Hood around.”
“Alright,” I grinned. “Grrrrr!”
I chased her in circles around the trampoline for a minute or two, then caught her up in a big bear hug and gently tackled her.
“Grrrr!” I said, tickling her. “I’m the Big Bad Wolf and I’m going to eat you!”
“No!” Lexi protested between giggles. “Big Bad Wolves don’t eat little girls!”
“Why not?” I questioned.
“Because I’m made of skin and bones.”
“So what do Big Bad Wolves eat?”
My little cousin paused, contemplating the question. Then she grinned sheepishly and said, “They eat…something.”
“What kind of something?” I prodded.
She thought about the question a moment longer, then her grin broadened and she replied, “They eat toast!”
I had nothing left to say. Oh, the beauty of innocence!