There were a sea of children when we drove up. Running from all directions as if a bull-horn announced we were close two miles back. I wondered where they were coming from. And where their mamas were.
They stood in a pack and stared. Mesmerized. And to me they looked like the way children truly want to be – no shoes, shirts untuck, red dirt caked to their knees and dusting their faces. Not confined by time or space. Enjoying the day of sunshine and warmth and digging in the dirt. Except that for them I knew days like these are like most other days. Here digging in the dirt isn’t something the mamas have to bribe their children to do like back home. The dirt is the prized toy.
There was one dress, though, different from all to others. It was blue and silky made from chiffon or satin. The wide collar held embroidered flowers and pleats fell from the waist. It was a fancy dress – a party dress. It stood in front of the sea, torn and stained, full of work and fun, but still beautiful.
Her little nose needed wiping and her face needed cleaning, but she still looked like she was on her way to a party with those round cheeks and perfect, small braided tight against her little head.
The next day just as expected. Full of light and sounds of cock-a-doodle-doo. The earth shows its glory no matter where it is positioned. The sun rises just as bright and the sky hangs just as blue no matter what it’s shining upon.
The children came back the next day from wherever they were coming from. Some ran through on their way to school with their lunch pails clanging against their legs as they ran. Others just came to be with us for one more day.
I noticed her from afar as she walked up to where we were. She could barely walk from holding her new dress off the ground. Pink and made of terry cloth covering only the essentials. It was nothing like the party dress from the day before. Today was different.
Today it was just a towel.
Look closely at her face. Look closely in her eyes. Does she know that today is different? Does she know that she woke up without a dress to wear?
We had a little girl’s dress. And we gave it to her.