The square of purple cotton, a dinner napkin, is always out because the minute she arrives at my house--Nana’s house--she demands it. What might look like a simple piece of cloth, meant to keep the crumbs off my lap, is to her as good as a set of wings. It is the source of her power.
When she asks, I fasten it to her collar or the back of her dress with one of those clips you use to close the potato chip bag, and she immediately starts running in a circle, looking over her shoulder to see if the fabric is billowing behind her. Satisfied her cape is functioning as it should, she turns, puts her hands on her hips and her face up to the sky and bellows “SUPER HERO, on the way!”
She runs and runs--“flying” and shouting--until she’s distracted by something: a butterfly, an airplane, a dog barking on the other side of the fence.
Really, everyone should spend time in the company of a 2-year-old. There is no creature more fierce, more determined or more charming. Most 2-year-olds walk an invisible line between reality and imagination and they’re always honest. Don’t ask a 2-year-old how your hair looks unless you really want to know.
A 2-year-old is fast. Last week she watched me pick a spent bloom on the rose that climbs the corner of the house last week and before I could stop her she’d stripped the rest of the buds off the branch.
A 2-year-old is unpredictable. We were tossing her big blue ball to one another when, like some kind of miniature NBA star, she whirled, rocketed the ball across the patio and bounced it off the fat belly of one of the cats who’d been sprawled on his back, sleeping away the hot afternoon. The cat, while uninjured, was sorely aggrieved.
Want to see pleasure at its most basic? Watch a two-and-a-half year old eat crackers and honey.
A 2-year-old is strong. Her hands are small but she can still manage to squeeze the nozzle of the hose with enough force to soak me the minute I turn my back.
My 2-year-old granddaughter rations hugs and kisses and when she says no, she means it. Conversely, when she’s feeling affectionate she shows it with a spontaneous full-body hug, wrapping her arms and legs around you, patting your back.
A 2-year-old is an inspiration. The other day I finally finished a complicated project, an assignment that had been a source of stress for weeks. I sent it on its way, closed my computer and walked out to the garden, happy to be done with something so difficult.
Sitting in my favorite spot, watching a hummingbird dip into the petunias in a corner of the garden, I could see the baby’s “cape” where she’d left it a few hours before.
It made me smile. Somewhere deep within me, the little girl who lives there still did just what my 2-year-old granddaughter would do. I didn’t wear her cape, I didn’t get out of my chair and run in circles, but I did turn my face up to the sun. I stretched my arms and legs and celebrated my superpower to get the job done.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org