One afternoon when winter broke enough to make outdoor play comfortable, I sent my children outside with playmates. At one point, the neighbor’s six year old boy pushed open my door with complaints about my preschool age son. The boy stood there and vented, his mucky hands waving and mouth completely encrusted with a circle of dried chocolate pudding. I had been watching and listening to the kids play through open windows. His arrival, therefore, was no real surprise, but the amount of dirt encasing his skin astounded me.
After listening to the child’s rant, I decided that no one was in danger of imminent death, gave a warning for the little man to recite to my son, and then announced he was not to leave the house until we washed him up. Angrily, the boy stomped and told me he hated washing—an obvious fact considering his grimy appearance. He passed his dirty hands over surfaces I had just polished or sanitized as I gently pushed him to the kitchen sink.
“Trust me--your mother will appreciate this,” I stated flatly. Minutes later, clean and with new impatience, he marched out of my home—reluctant to return with more tattling due to the threat of being sanitized by his playmate’s mother.
Tales like this remind me of classic childhood—the consistency of child behavior across generations. Dirty boys with comedic complaints about playmates, spells of arguing and making up, and new games of pretend created. Afternoons rolling in the yard, hair carrying smithereens of crushed leaves, arms smeared with soil--these moments, are really, as some would say, golden, even when tinged with dirt.