A couple Saturdays ago I rode along with my parents and my niece, Grace, to the EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, where we’d be meeting my sister and brother-in-law later in the day.
We found a shade tree just outside the grounds and set up some chairs to watch the nonstop aerial shows the dozens of planes were putting on.
It didn’t take long, and Gracie was getting to know the lady next to us who was also enjoying the shade and the air show.
Then, during one of a few scheduled bathroom breaks in which Grandma and Gracie were gone, a little girl and her younger brother came to sit down about three feet away from me, the girl setting up a fold-out lounge chair and commenting to no one in particular, “I think I’ll sit...right...here.”
I smiled at her but didn’t say anything, and turned back to watch the planes, anxious to see Grace’s reaction when she came back to our spot in the shade.
And sure enough, it didn’t disappoint. Uncles and grandparents and new older lady friends are all well and good, but other little kids are always much more important to little kids.
Gracie was in full jabber mode as she walked with Grandma, but when she saw the two newcomers to my left, the conversation ceased and she stopped in her tracks to survey the situation.
I was sprawled out on the grass with my legs extended, and she came and stood alongside me, her feet tucked under my right leg, silent and staring for about a minute. Then, she stepped over my legs and stood and stared some more. Another minute or so, and she sat down on the ground and nestled against my arm, still observing, but also safely resting against “familiar territory.”
A couple minutes later, she scooted along the ground to move closer to her peers, and I was no longer necessary. I’d served my purpose as a couple-stage buffer, but now Grace felt brave enough to invite herself into the conversation that the girl and her brother were having, nodding and saying, “yeah,” and “mm hmm.”
When a plane came in for a landing along the runway nearest to us, the little girl said out loud, “Wow, that’s a biiigg plane!!” and Gracie answered back with, “Yeahhh, that is a big one!” and voila!...a new friend was made, and the conversation continued.
With a little bit of eavesdropping on my part, I was entertained for a good hour with some very random snippets of getting-to-know-you conversation.
“I’m 5,” said Grace. “How old are you?”
“I’m 4, and a haaalf!” replied the girl.
“Well I’m older than you.”
“You look like you’re 3.”
“No, I doh-uuun’t.” (don’t you just love it how little kids can take a one-syllable word and stretch it out into a really long two?)
On the EAA grounds, some smoke bombs were being set off as planes flew by to give the effect of a wartime demonstration, and that also became a topic of conversation.
“Are you scared of the bombs and the smoke out there? I’m not,” said Grace.
“I’m not, either,” answered the little girl.
“Do you like shrimp?” asked Grace.
I didn’t hear the answer to that one. And did I mention these bytes of conversation were, um, random? Yeah.
During a short lull of silence, the girl blurted out, “I’m Bailey!!”
“That’s your name? My name’s Grace.”
The rest of their time together was spent running races to see who was faster, and sharing grapes. And when Bailey had to leave, the older people once again became a little more interesting.
I like to think I learned a little something about interpersonal communication skills, and might have to test it out among the older crowd in a barroom environment.
“I’m 38, how old are you? You look like you’re 3.”
And of course the one to catch 'em off guard: “Do you like shrimp?”
Think that’ll get me a phone number?
“He had occasional flashes of silence
that made his conversation
that made his conversation