Bob and I recently returned from a much-anticipated Denver vacation, a city long on the personal list of must-sees. I took copious notes during our adventures with the expectancy of using them for this post in some form. There’s benefits to letting travel exploits steep for a while before finding a “get,” the takeaway that offers more than a short-term imprint and witty anecdote. As higher-level impressions mature, in-the-moment notes can fill in the forgotten details and give the written experience a fuller, more deliberate flavor.
So I’m finding anew. In revisiting our Rocky Mountain excursion and the annotations compiled, some of the convergence between my memory and the marginalia is surprisingly and vividly pedestrian. Sure I remember the beauty of Central Colorado’s vast, open spaces. I treasure the weeklong breach with low-carb dieting that resulted in the best cinnamon roll, bison steak and avocado toast (and here I never knew this was a thing) experiences imaginable. And I’ll never fail to recall the full feelings of contentment that accompanied relaxing with Bob each night on the hotel balcony, watching life happen in the street below our feet.
But this elucidation is the one inspiring the keystrokes, jotted on Day 3:
“Once again I’m reminded that given the choice, I prefer conversation with small children over adults. Their stories are more real, interesting and they actually care if you’re paying attention.”
The catalyst for this observation was a visit to the home of Bob’s maternal cousin and her husband, a warm and welcoming couple with trio of little urchins: three year-old Lilah, and two-month old twin boys named Jack and Hank. A most adorable party. The first trait I noticed and admired in Lilah was her wariness of strangers. It would be inaccurate to label it fear. It’s more of a side eye with an unspoken, “Impress me if you can. I’ll wait. It’s my house and I’ve got all day.” I have a lot of respect for those who come into this world with the preternatural knowledge that people are soul-crushingly boring.
Anyway Lilah’s standoffishness presented a challenge I was more than willing to accept. I started to inquire about her life, noting via her baseball coach father that she’d acted as his assistant that day. She immediately perked up and informed me:
“One of the players had one arm.”
So many questions but I didn’t want to smother the precarious momentum I was building. So I turned to dad and asked for clarification. It seems one of the young baseballers had recently broken an appendage, thus showing up to practice with “one arm.” In a reporter’s quest for facts, I reduced Lilah’s whimsical if no less accurate account to the mundane. Lesson learned and for the rest of the visit, I surrendered and went with the toddler flow. It was a good decision, for I was treated to a variety of utterances like the following:
“If you don’t want me to climb the fence, why are you standing on it?”
“You can’t walk through my house unless I say.”
“I like having my feet in the air.”
Each question and observation struck me as more progressively sensible than the one previous. The backyard fence was constructed with latticework, and Bob’s diminutive cousin was in fact standing on one of the rungs while conversing with a neighbor. The expressed unfairness of Lilah’s own forbidden climb seemed entirely rational. Likewise the aversion to having unapproved guests tromp through the home, as well highlighting the arbitrariness in demanding feet remain on the ground. By the time Bob and I prepared to say our goodbyes, Lilah had become my spiritual guru. The enlightened id.
I met a variety of engaging adults during our Southwestern travels, including members of Bob’s family and a gaggle of absolutely darling hipsters (a satire-free phrase I never thought I’d write). But it’s the assured skepticism of Lilah, so reminiscent of the sassy armor I wore at her age before the work of growing up dulled its shine, which sticks. I don’t need to be a parent or a child myself to appreciate the unvarnished, joyous truth offered by conversations with the wee. They’re my people.