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The Scrivener: Infection

Brian Barratt reminds us of the treasure in a child's smile. Brianís weekly columns bring immediate delight to readers and also serve as signposts to happiness.

For lots more fun with words and ideas do please visit Brianís Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas

Thereís a horse on the footpath outside the butcherís shop. Last month, it was a fire engine. Before that it was a railway engine. Sometimes, they rock back and forth or jiggle up and down. If you have a nice Mummy or Grannie or Daddy or Grandad, theyíll put a coin in the slot and you can have a go. But only if youíre very little.

The other day, a smallperson with a floppy pudding basin mop of blonde hair was having a go. His eyes lit up when I glanced at him. With a huge smile of tiny infant teeth he proudly announced, ĎIím on a HORSE!í

A few steps further on, I looked back. He called for all the world to hear, ĎIím riding a HORSE!í For one small child at least, that gaudy, coin-in-the-slot, rocking horse was transport into a joyful world of imagination.

During the winter ó thatís July in Melbourne ó I was poddling around another shopping centre. Such was the weather that I was well wrapped and wearing a black woollen beanie well down over my ears.

ĎLook Mummy! Itís Father Christmas

A little girl had seen me approaching, with my spectacles and curious garb, and white beard. Not that itís a Father Christmas beard. Not by any means. And Father Christmas doesnít use a walking stick. Well, not as far as I know. But for one delighted child I suddenly became someone else. Someone important, too.

The smallperson smiled. Her mother grinned. I did my best to beam but I didnít shatter the illusion by speaking. In our separate worlds, we all moved on.

A black eye-patch makes even more of an impression. For several months, I had one or the other of the lenses of my glasses covered in black tape. The eyes were taking turns to stay closed, you see, and it wasnít a pretty sight. There was a neurological problem involving palsy of cranial nerves. Black sticky tape was more convenient than wearing an eye patch under the specs. A wooden leg and a parrot might have completed the pirate picture.

Anyway, the pirate look caught the attention of a boy walking slowly into a local bakery, with his family. I was sitting having a coffee on the pavement. Supported by table and chair, of course.

He gazed, and I looked straight at him with the one good eye, and without altering my expression. He wasnít quite sure how to react but just before he walked into the door, he gave me a cheery smile and a wave, as if to say, ĎHi!í Thatís all. Amidst the worry about why I had to wear than damned black tape, I suddenly felt much happier.

Rocking horses, white beards, black eye patches. Where do we go from here?

At this juncture, I was going to ramble on in some philosophical way about the meaning of life. Maybe air some thoughts about the romantic view of childhood expressed by the poets William Wordsworth and Rabindranath Tagore. Or perhaps discuss child rearing and nurturing in the twenty-first century.

We donít need all that waffle. Thereís a much better way of ending.

Enjoy those smiles. Theyíre infectious. Pass them on.
Thatís all.

© Copyright 2006 Brian Barratt

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