I am in our living room this afternoon, thinking about going out.
Beautiful day. My wife was out.
A light tapping at the thick front door. Not a knock. Tapping. So faint; rare. Almost never occurs. Usually they ring bell. My wife will knock loudly sometimes if she’s coming home with groceries.
I open door and there are three little girls probably age seven to eight to preadolescent standing there. So cute and innocent looking — true is it not of most kids?
They live next door. A family from Yemen. One of the older girls had a head scarf. The father runs a deli/bodega on the corner that his father started.
There are a few adult women living there whom I rarely see. It seems that Muslim women remain indoors unless business calls them outside.
One day I encountered them standing on the front steps. They had head and face coverings. I thought they might not be willing to speak to me. Instead, they returned my greeting politely with friendly smiles.
The three girls explained to me that they had lost three (!) balls on our garage roof. I often hear them playing (rare with kids in NYC … music to my ears) in our common back yard or in the narrow space between our house and theirs.
Is there any way we could get access to the garage roof and retrieve the balls? I thought we could, but wasn’t sure.
If we can’t do that, they said next — before leaving — if, by any chance, we have a tall ladder, they would be willing to climb up it and get the balls themselves.
I told them I would see what I could do. They said thanks and left.
Except the youngest girl hesitated. She stood there with a fixed gaze, so innocent. Beautiful black eyes. Then she said bye and left too.
The world of childhood. Psychoanalyst Selma Fraiberg called them “the magic years.”
What preoccupies them. Their lack of guile. Their innocence.
— Roger W. Smith
May 17, 2021