I LOVE how easily little children fall in love with things; their joy in new experiences and people.
This is especially true of my intense seven-year-old Amelia who hasn’t yet learned to play her emotional cards close to her chest.
She crushes hard on her toys, on newly-met kids in the park and writes passionate letters (and emails and text messages) to her teacher: “Miss S, I love you so much.”
Our home is littered with tender notes left on side tables, Valentines slipped quietly into pockets and drawers.
Then, there is M, our 16-year-old neighbour. A gentle, dark-haired girl who waves to us in the garden and once picked a red flower, passing it to Amelia over the short fence that separates our houses.
A rose by any other teenage girl would not smell nearly as sweet. And with that flower she did win Amelia’s sweet heart. Like, forever.
A few weeks ago, I found Amelia outside, pressed up against the fence, calling M’s name into the cooling night air. “M! Where are you?” There was a note of shyness in her voice, but there was hope too. Lots of hope.
Before I could wrangle her back inside, M suddenly appeared. She said, “I thought I heard you calling me! Let’s play a game.” And over our little fence, M joined hands with Amelia and showed her how to wrestle thumbs. They chatted and laughed together before parting ways.
It was a fleeting interaction, but it meant so much to Amelia. It solidified something growing steadily inside her. That longed for connection with another human being – friendship. She has so much love to give but not always the facility to show it or receive it.
Soon after, Amelia drew a special picture for her new buddy M. She spent a long time on it and together we put it into a special envelope covered in stickers and hearts. I said, “Should we go and give it to her now?” Um, is the Pope a Catholic?
M wasn’t home, so we left the letter in the safe hands of her younger brother. I forgot about it until the next day after Amelia went to school. I checked the letter box for the daily mail and instead found a small gift box and card inside.
It was addressed to Amelia, from M. I carefully took it out and held it in my hands, as though it was fragile, precious. And it was. I’d been worried Amelia’s intensity might be annoying to our teenage neighbour, but I was so, so wrong.
I put the gift inside, ready for its lucky recipient to return home. You’d be forgiven for thinking the present was for me, the way I paced around waiting for the school bus to arrive in our street, desperate to see its secret contents revealed.
Amelia finally came home and I greeted her with the news falling urgently from my lips, “Baby, M left you a present, it’s inside!”
Her eyes widened in disbelief. “M? For me?”
“Yes, for you! Let’s go!”
We ran together into the house, jostling to reach the little box veritably pulsing with life on the kitchen bench. The card contained a beautifully penned thank you note from M. Amelia’s picture had made her day, so here was something in return. Just for her.
Inside the box was a silver chain with a pretty circular pendant depicting a tree. A thing that grows. Like the friendship between a loving deaf, autistic girl and her sweet teenage neighbour.
They are separated by nearly ten years of age and the small fence that separates our houses. M doesn’t always understand what Amelia is trying to say, and my little one misses plenty of sounds and what they mean.
But these things are not barriers; the distance between Amelia and M is remarkably short. When they touch hands and laugh and send each other letters they are just two girls reaching out to each other and finding a friend.