I had a bit of time this afternoon between lunch with a friend, running errands, and going to yoga. The bookstore is down the road from Target, so I decided to go and sit and work on an artsy project I'm trying to finish. I found a table in the cafe, pulled out my paper, and started working.
A little girl and her mother were sitting at the table in front of me, and mom was trying to go through some magazines and books, clearly looking for information. The little girl was alternately in her lap, in the chair, in the other chair, running to get a new magazine, or just wandering around the cafe.
I was deeply engaged in my work and had tuned out everything around me when a little voice said, "Wow, you sure are a good draw-er."
I looked up, and the little girl from the table in front of me was standing by my table, looking at my work. "Well thank you," I said.
"I like art," she said. "Even though I'm only 5. Do you think you could sell that?"
"I don't know," I said. "What do you think?"
"Yeah," she said. "I think people would buy that. Like, with money and stuff."
"Well thanks," I said. "Do you like drawing?"
"Mmmhmmm. Like at school we do art. But when you do art at school, you still have to listen to the teacher."
"I guess you do," I said.
"You always have to listen to the teacher," she said.
"That's true," I acknowledged. "I bet you're a good listener," I said, going back to my drawing.
"Yeah. Pretty good," she said. "I'll be back."
She left for a bit to go look at magazines, and came back with a fishing magazine with a big fish dangling by a hook, its mouth gaping open, with a smiling fisherman holding it proudly. "Do you think you could draw this fish?" she asked.
"Oh wow," I shook my head. "I don't know if I could draw that fish. He's HUGE! Do you think you could draw him?"
"Yeah," she said. "It's easy."
I looked over at her mother, who was still busy flipping through books. "Well hey," I said. "Do you want to draw that fish?" She said yes, pulled out the chair across from me, and sat down. I gave her a piece of paper and free access to my sharpies. "This is going to be a really good fish," she told me.
"I'm sure it is," I smiled. "I can't wait to see what you do."
We sat for a long time drawing. She didn't say a word, just sat there working very quietly. At one point she looked up and said, "can you help me draw his tongue?"
"His tongue?" I asked. "The fish's tongue?"
"Yeah," she said, pointing to the fish's gaping mouth on the magazine cover. "The big fish has his tongue sticking out."
"Oh I see that," I said. "Hmmm...you know what, I think since this is YOUR fish, it's probably best for you to draw the tongue, too. What do you think?" She nodded, and set to work.
"How about the tail?" she asked moments later. "Could you draw the tail?"
I looked at the magazine cover. "Oh, that is tricky, isn't it? You can't see the tail in the picture." She shook her head. "Can you imagine what the fish's tail might look like?" She closed her eyes, and then flicked her fingers in a backwards attempt at a snap.
"I've got it. I saw a big fish when I went to Virginia Beach when I was only 4. And Mommy went, too. And Sarah went, too, but she didn't see the fish, only I saw'd it."
"Ooooh, so I bet you know just what that fish's tail looks like," I said. She bent back over her drawing.
Several minutes later, she looked up. "Those people," she said, referencing the baristas at the cafe, "need to be quiet. They're being rude. People are working here, and the bookstore is supposed to be a quiet place."
"Their loud talking is bugging you, huh?"
"Yeah. I think they're grown-ups, so they should know better. But sometimes grown-ups don't know better."
"That's true," I said, thoughtfully, stopping to consider the thoughtful little philosopher in front of me. "Sometimes grown-ups just don't know better."
We kept drawing in silence for a bit, and then she looked at the mess I had made on the table with my eraser.
"They should really clean these tables," she said. "Look at all that mess."
"Well," I said, "I think it's actually my mess. Those are all the pieces of eraser from me erasing my pencil lines. So I guess I should be the one to clean it up, shouldn't I?"
"That's what my Mommy and my teacher always says. They say 'clean up your mess.' Like how I always have to clean up my toys before dinner. But I always keep my room clean. Cleaner than my sister's room, too. My mom says my room is the cleanest one, and that's because I don't want to be embarrassed when my friends come over. Like, if my best friend comes over, I don't want to be embarrassed."
"It sounds like you really like things to be clean," I said.
"Yes. And now I need a name for my fish." She glanced around the cafe. "Oh, I've got it! This will be easy." She began busily writing letters, and then said, "there! I'm done."
I couldn't quite make out the writing, so I asked, "what is the fish's name?"
"I don't know," she said. "I just copied the word from over there." She pointed, and I looked behind me at a sign advertising a sugar-free caramel latte. I looked back at her fish and, sure enough, she had written some version of Sugarfree, plus or minus a few letters.
"Sugarfree!" I said. "I think that's a good name for a fish."
She looked at me for a moment, as though that were a really silly thing to say, and then seemed to realize that she had just named her fish Sugarfree. "Yeah..." she said, kind of uncertain.
"Sugarfree is a very unique name, especially for a fish. You really used your good eyes and your imagination to write his name."
"Yeah!" she said. "I think it's a nice name."
She ran to show her mother, came back a couple times to add a few minor details to her masterpiece, and then packed up with her mother to leave. I said goodbye and talked to her mother briefly as they left, and they walked away.
A few minutes later, I was again deeply focused on my work when a familiar little voice said, "when will I see you here again?"
I looked up, and her mother was standing by the door with an amused expression on her face and her purchaces in her hands. "You know, I don't know," I said. "Maybe I'll run into you here again sometime. I'd like that."
"I'm coming back on Tuesday," she said.
"I probably won't be here Tuesday," I said. "But maybe on a Saturday sometime. Maybe I'll see you again on a Saturday."
She stood looking at me for a moment, clearly dissatisfied with my answer. "I would really like to draw with you again," I said.
"Yeah," she said. "See ya next time," and off she ran to join her mother.