The other day I was walking with Ruby on the isla by my house.
There is a dog who lives on the isla named Pancho, who is a friend of Ruby’s, but as with most dog friendships, the quality of said association is more a matter of who is Top Dog on that particular day.
So, on that particular day, Pancho was trying to rile up Ruby… and I was allowing this to happen, only because I totally saw her ping him earlier. She practically flipped him off as we were walking by the first time.
She does this thing where she’ll draw fire from bigger alpha dogs and then whine about it, so sometimes… let’s say… I just maybe let things go a little past the point which a bystander might think is appropriate. So it probably looked like Pancho was harassing Ruby but there was more to it.
This kid came over, maybe 13/14/15 years of age, enquiring what the problem was. Asking why I was letting Pancho be so rude to Ruby. I explained they are friends but that Pancho was messing with Ruby because Ruby messed with him first.
He walked with us for a bit, doing that thing that I’ve seen other Free Range kids do, where they just sort of take up with you. Kids who either live abroad or spend a lot of time traveling, I’ve noticed tend to be this way. Start a conversation with you. Walk where you’re walking. Do what you’re doing. It could be described as entitled behavior in that there are huge assumptions on the part of the child that you want their company (you think you probably don’t), but there’s also a sweetness that could never be described as entitlement. They’re just be-ing, and they’re actually being kinda awesome. Funny. Smart. Sure of themselves.
It’s right about then when you realize you have stumbled upon a rather special creature indeed: the Free Range child. Your annoyance melts quickly into curiosity as this 1:4 scale model of an adult captivates you in a way that many of the full-scale ones can’t.
The reasons your fellow adults can’t captivate you are their own… but the reasons this kid can captivate you, are yours actually. His curiosity is your uniqueness, reflected back at you.
This kid was captivated by you first. By your qualities. Not the other way around. It’s their curiosity but it’s your draw.
I’m sure that’s their magic. The curiosity.
I think to myself that he’s so innocent and open and that’s so damn cool.
I’m so far from that anymore.
We’re talking about this thing and that thing and eventually he asks me where I live, in that not-entitled-but-something-more-open-and-free way. I am completely fascinated by this exchange, mostly because the questions he’s asking, if asked by a man 30 years his senior, are creepy af. I know this because I am asked them on a regular basis and it never fails to land wrong.
“When do they stop being awesome and start being scary?” I ask myself.
I tell him that if you go to the top of the stairs and to the left, my door is not far down there.
“So, west” he says.
I say the east/west phrase every good sailor knows (in my head) real quick.
He lets me know that he lives to the right at the top of the stairs. To the east.
“That distinction between east and west can be a really big deal sometimes” he says, and this statement was met with a blank look from me.
He lets out a big sigh.
“No one ever gets my Germany jokes”.
Good LAWD I love free range children.
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