Dinner ended and post meal-conversations bloomed. Fueled with Chardonnay and various reds, the noise level ratchets as each diner shares new and old stories. Beneath the warm exchanges and laughter at the adult table, small children dart about in pursuits below the tabletop, beyond the focus of their parents and grandparents.
One little girl stands out from the chaos. Her hair is dark brown, cut pixie short, delicate little freckles scatter across her tiny nose, and lovely dark eyes, one lighter than the other, blended in with small pools of olive green. Her monolog never stops. “I don’t really like red licorice,” she tells me. “My daddy used to bring us M&M’s and gum from his work. But he was gone to meetings for months and months.” All the while she speaks, her little hands deftly handle a small video game that detonates hens into minute, cracked eggs at the bottom of the screen.
“Do you remember how you came back after sneaking out with your friends that night, and I was waiting for you?” laughs one grandmother to the little girl’s father. Everyone seated at the table chuckles. But the delicate child pays no attention to the merriment above her.
Her voice–a timbre of little tinkling bells, shows me her journal. It’s a rectangular tome, and I can see that she has written on the empty pages since I sent it to her for her birthday in June. Producing a pencil the size of a bread stick, the seven-year-old opens to a new page. “My Papa in Idaho gave this to me for my birthday,” she explains. I can see her spiky printing where she has carefully kept the dates for each entry. I point out to her where I dedicated the book to her, inside the front cover. At that little disclosure, she looks up curiously into my face, pulled momentarily from her private world. This little Ramona-look-alike appraises me thoughtfully for the first time, and I can sense the girl may have found a spot in her life where I just might possibly fit.
More amiable laughter spills over the long plate and platter strewn table. Little O turns quickly back to her journal and scribbles a secret message about her day.
I hope she mentioned me.