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Nature’s Masterpiece

“A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe this to be true, and so I’ve been heartened and proud to see that sometime this spring, when I wasn’t really looking or paying attention, Simon’s playmates and classmates became friends. And I do mean real friends: children whose company he enjoys, whose feelings he cares about, and children who, in turn, care about him. Of all the fruits our labors with Simon have borne, the cultivation of these first friends is surely the sweetest.

I think, ironically, I didn’t notice what was happening because of Simon’s longstanding friendship with Sophie. Sophie is Simon’s first friend, pre-dating the others by such a wide margin that she is a true outlier. Sophie came into our lives when Simon was about four months old and she about a year and a half. This long history makes her a temporal outlier. She is also a lively, spirited child who is much more assertive and boisterous than Simon. Were she anyone else, she would intimidate him. But she’s sweet Sophie who has been in his life since before he can remember, and so for her (and her alone), Simon puts aside his sensitivities, making her an outlier in that regard, too.

Aside from Sophie, until very recently, the other children in his life were his cousins and his classmates. The former are all older than him, and he seemed to have no real relationship beyond familiarity with the latter. He was, however, clearly working up to that next step, as he’d lie in his crib at night and rattle off their names and declare them all best friends. Matt and I would look on admiringly without really believing a word of it:

I see Lola. She best friend. I see Larkin. She best friend. I see Avi. She best friend. I see Sosia. She best friend. I see Gabbi-ELLE! She best friend.

We’d call this type of speech “conjugating”, as Simon would chose a pattern and slot a variety of words into it. Amo, Amas, Amat. It didn’t seem to really mean a thing. Then something interesting happened. One night “Baron” made the list the day after Simon’s teachers told me that he had spent the day playing with him. That seemed less like conjugation to me, and more like reporting.

And now he has forged two very real camp relationships that cannot be denied. We have witnessed the connection, and seeing is believing. The first is with Veronica, who will always have a place in my heart for helping Simon adjust to camp. Even though “camp” is in the same building as “school” and has much the same staff, it’s not exactly the same, and Simon remains extremely sensitive to all changes. Making the transition to camp was hard for him; I came to realize exactly how hard when he informed me with a very serious face one day that “Camp’s not scary.” When he says that, you can bet the farm that it’s because whatever preceded the “not” scared the heck out of him.

I think it was late in the first week of camp that Simon stood in front of the auditorium where all the children gather in the morning, took in the commotion, and froze. Just then, Veronica, a new girl about his age, showed up with her mother. I had heard from teachers that Simon had taken a liking to her, and wouldn’t you know it Veronica saw Simon frozen at the entrance, took his hand in hers, and escorted him in. Just like a friend. And Simon, comforted by the gesture and company, marched right in with a big smile on his face and had a great time. That day was the last time camp seemed to scare him.

Then last week, our friends Sharon and George’s daughter Leah started camp. They know each other a bit, but had previously been in different classes at school. In camp they are grouped together, though, and Simon is in heaven. Thursday or Friday last week, when we dropped him off, Leah arrived at the same time. The two reached for each other, held hands, and ran together giggling all around the room. Periodically they would split, then run back to each other, embrace, and begin their hand-in-hand running anew. I could have stayed and watched for hours.

There are other budding relationships, too. He’s crazy about our neighbor Lin, is excited that his classmate Ruby lives right next door, is developing crushes on his aunts Tia and Stacy, and adores spending time with his Goldstein cousins, even if they are all older. The chance for family connection is the reason we moved back home. I’m glad to see it, but I expected it. Whereas nascent friendships were not guaranteed, and they gladden my heart all the more for it. It’s early days yet, I know, but if Simon continues to make connections like those he is building now, I think he will possess a key component for a lifetime of happiness. And what, really, could make a mother happier than that?

One Response to “Nature’s Masterpiece”

  1. bethnbobinnc says:

    You’ll find that these will be some of the best friendships that he has as the years go by. Drew still plays with his 3 best buddies from preschool even though they are not in the same school anymore. They are truly best friends. By the way, Evan pointed down the highway the other day and said, “I see mountains, Mommy! Like when we saw Simon!” I was impressed that he remembered that trip since it’s been so long.

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