December 20, 2014
For me, the best part of Christmas is the
children: their excitement, joy, imagination, wonder, inquisitiveness, skepticism, and
instinct for generosity. I believe that most of my friends and relatives will agree.
This year, just a few days before the main event, my husband and I had opportunities to revel
in all of these treasures. On December 20, we went to visit the child, now aged two, for whom
we used to babysit. To us, she is "Ponkin." When she was momentarily out of the room, her mama
asked her daddy to plug in the lights for their as-yet sparsely-decorated Christmas tree.
Ponkin returned to the room. Evidently she had never seen a lighted Christmas tree, at least
not since the long-forgotten Christmas of 2013. She walked as far around it as she could,
pointing and exclaiming "wow!" over and over. She fetched her little wicker chair, placed it
beside the tree, and sat in it so that she could enjoy extended observation of the lighted wonder.
One of the ornaments already gracing the tree was a large, ornate stuffed gingerbread man.
Ponkin repeatedly took the ornament in her arms, hugged it tenderly, and patted it on the
back, as she does with her own dolls. Each time she did so, the ornament detached itself
from the tree; each time that happened, her daddy patiently reattached it to the same spot.
When at long last she was through adoring the lighted tree, she
moved to the television where a large, transparent storage tub with a lid was sitting. As she
had done several times earlier in the evening while her mama was out shopping, she started
climbing onto the tub. From that vantage point she had been watching her beloved Mickey Mouse
cartoons. This time, mama saw her and reminded her not to climb onto the tub. Ponkin got down
immediately. I said: "Aha! Now we know you're not allowed to do that!"
Ponkin looked at me, her eyes big and round. The shrewd smile she
gave me was far beyond her years, and she nodded sagely. I threw back my head and laughed so
hard I was powerless to take a picture! Thank you, dear Ponkin, for these marvelous Christmas memories.
December 21, 2014
The following day, we went to church early and
got to watch a slew of small fry decorate the gingerbread house we had given them. My husband
accused me of choosing that gift because of the photo opportunity it would present. Who, me?
It hadn't even entered my head!
Later, we visited a set of five children with
their parents and their aunt. These siblings, aged one month to five and one-half years, provided
many memorable moments for our Christmas family album. The twin girls were just over one month
past their second birthdays. Mom prompted one to demonstrate her verbal skills, and she obliged with
glee: "a komodo dragon eating a baby goat!" This was the same twin who tried hard to get herself
into the gift bag from her big brother's Christmas gift. The bag was only big enough for both of
her legs. The other twin was practicing her shyness for most of this visit, tightly cuddled against
her aunt's shoulder. Like so many small children, she enjoyed her gift bag more than her gift. The
five-year-old big brother showed amazing restraint as he asked questions about my cameras, lenses,
flash attachment, and all the intriguing buttons on them. After I explained about the focusing and
zooming features of my long lens, the boy's eyes looked a bit glazed over. "Was that too much information?"
I asked. "Yes," he admitted. I think that was a first for us.
My husband reminds me that the baby was awake and alert when we arrived;
he was able to play with the little fellow, after a fashion, for a few minutes. Then I suppose we had
a soporific affect on the wee one. He spent most of our visit on his dad's lap, collecting kisses
from his sisters and napping. As one of his uncles had warned me, the scope of his activity is still
somewhat lacking. For his Christmas gift, we gave him a little shirt, signed, with a Miriam A. Kilmer
photograph of chicks on it. He was predictably unimpressed.
The big sister of the twins and the babies had the most inventive outfit
of the evening, having picked it out herself. She's almost four. She was wearing a bright orange
flowered sun dress, over which she had pulled a vivid teal blue skirt with large navy blue polka
dots. She cuddled the Folkmanis finger puppet field mouse we gave her with a tenderness that
satisfied my soul. She also predictably asked her great-uncle to read her a book. Whenever this
happens, which is every time we visit, it is impossible to tell who is enjoying the story more:
the fascinated little girl or her doting great-uncle.
The children's aunt kept prompting them to thank us. I realize that
it's important to teach small children manners, but for me their enjoyment of the gifts, their
animated play, and their engaging conversation were thanks enough. The baby did open his eyes
again towards the end of the evening, allowing me to take a few tender close-up portraits of him
with his dad.
Perhaps the best gift came at the end, when mom asked the (almost)
four-year-old whether she would like to give me a hug or a high five. Often the answer to that
question is neither, which I gladly respect. I remember what it was like when, as a child,
I was obliged to hug people I barely knew, or with whom I felt uncomfortable. I understand the
need small children have to express and protect their autonomy.
This entrancing little girl elected to give me a hug and
a high five, both at once!
Feel free to pass this on via email or to post it on social media
if you like, but please include
my copyright notice and internet address:
© 2014 by Miriam A. Kilmer
All other rights reserved.
For their safety and privacy, please don't identify the children.