Saturday, August 25, 2012

Understanding One's Flaws

Normally I wouldn’t pay a breath of attention to a child. I’m of the W.C. Fields school of young progeny appreciation; hopefully not seen, neither heard. But I couldn’t help but notice the apprehension clouding the face of a nearby tenish year old girl. She seemed alone; at least my scanning the 32 unfilled bus depot seats within our proximity provided no clue as to who might be her guardian. That in itself made me nervous for her, and I decided to at least keep her within my sightline until she appeared safe. But what had caught my eye and continued to make me curious was her cradling a small object in her hands as if it were a baby bird having fallen from a nest. I struggled to see what it was that she was enamored by, without of course making it obvious I was looking at her at all lest some hothead vigilante get the wrong idea.

Finally I caught a glimpse of her prize, a matchbox sized ceramic container, a rosemaled, alabaster coffer, no doubt containing some picture, coin or other keepsake of great worth.

You’d think once I’d seen the item my curiosity would have been sated, but alas, I soon became obsessed with the object and its possible contents. (Sitting alone in a small town bus terminal for hours, waiting on the last of two daily coaches tends to make one insane with latent nosiness, waiting for any trigger with which to set it into meddlesome motion.

“Young lady” I abruptly mumbled; “might I ask what it is that you’re holding? It seems so precious to you.”

Without so much as looking up she said “It’s my box of flaws! And my mom says I need it with me at all times.”

My mind began chewing that answer immediately, like a raccoon with a discarded fast food bag. “A box of flaws.” How cute if it were meant to relive the child of the self made guilt that surrounds the discovery of imperfection. A little box in which to store flaws so that the girl would never be burdened by them.

Or how loutish of a parent to make issue of a child’s shortcomings; to force the youngster to carry with them a constant reminder of their failing to meet the parent’s expectations. A box of flaws indeed!

Yet either way it was heartwarming to me, endearing almost, that one so young could be moved by symbolism so simple, and yet so profound. One’s flaws are ponderous things, no matter a person’s inclination to either obsess their importance or forgive oneself their existence. And to have someone so young believe that she might store them in a tiny box to be held in her tiny hand, is a testament to the power of myth.

As I calculated the probabilities of flaws as saint or demon, reticent to ask for resolution to my query as I was a stranger and children should never speak to me and mine, the girl sat, fluffed out her dress so as to make a lap and then sat the box into the center of the smoothed fabric. With one hand she held the ceramic tightly, and with the other she began to extrude a long piece of string from its interior. Once she’d pulled nearly a foot long strand, she jerked her hand away from her waist as if bitten by a spider, snapping off a healthy length of the material.

Then, as a smile slowly crept across my face, the angel twirled the ends of the string ‘round her index fingers and slid the material between her slightly bucked front teeth.

“Floss” I said with a chuckle. “A box of floss.”

It’s no wonder I’m not a parent, I thought. I have no ear for childese.

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