To Be But a Child

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2006

Julia Soderholm

Mae Trillian has always lived a fairly simple life. Nothing brought her more pleasure than perfect, small simplicities—a tall glass of cold, crystalline water full of chinking ice cubes, the noise of a lead pencil as it scratched the surface of a crisp sheet of paper. The sound of the wind amongst a forest of stately trees and the perfect poise of a single flower as it makes its incredible journey from tiny seed to glorious blossom brought the greatest joy to Mae’s heart. That, and of course the delightful thing called writing where one can pour out one’s soul onto a piece of paper. Where intricate worlds are created by the touch of a pencil’s tip, and characters’ lives unfold into brilliant stories of intrigue and romance.

Sighing, Mae sat quietly on a wooden stool that stood before the large bay window dominating the eastern wall of her minute kitchen. Her delicate image was reflected in the window’s translucent pane; her thin lips were slightly parted and moved as though she were speaking, although no noise escaped her mouth. Tawny curls spilled down across a pale forehead, where slender brows arched above eyes of the deepest emerald.

She silently watched the street before her quaint home, where children played; their shouts of joyous laughter filtered in with golden rays of luminescent sun.

And to be but a child,.
Their cares light as motes of dust
Drifting silently, only to filter out of
All existence

The poem escaped the young woman’s lips; her bright eyes softened as her mouth slowly formed a tender smile.

A salty breeze drifted in through the partially opened window; the sea’s crested waves crashed onto the pebbly beach merely a ten-minute walk from Mae’s diminutive home.

To Be But a Child looking at sunrise

Morning had always fascinated Mae

Still smiling slightly, she stood and moved across the kitchen’s tiled floor to her countertop: a beauteous mosaic of aquamarine, turquoise, and cerulean pieces forming the image of a rising wave. She ran one hand over the magnificent icon and brushed a stray ringlet from her eyes with the other. The morning light brought the fabulous colors to life; Mae could almost taste the salty ocean water and hear the crash of the waves as they broke onto the jagged rocks with a powerful grace.

Morning had always fascinated Mae. The watery sunlight slanting across her scrubbed kitchen tabletop and the dappled patterns it made as it shone through the trees. She adored the birds’ joyous songs, exulting in the beginning of another splendid day. No matter how divine the moon’s silver gleam could be, or how perfect the glistening stars, morning was a time of birth and renewal.

Reaching for the kettle, Mae ran the water from her creaky, silver faucet. Her favorite mug, a saffron-colored dish splashed with shapes and patterns of every color of the rainbow’s spectrum, stood beside a battered, corduroy knapsack, festooned with key chains and bright patches. That bag was Mae’s pride and joy, a collection of souvenirs that painted a picture of her rich, young life.

Moving away from the sink, Mae carefully sliced two pieces of freshly-baked cheese-bread, buttering them with cream held in her great-grandmother’s cut-glass butter tray.

Taking a quick glance at the violet clock that hung above the fridge, Mae speechlessly willed the water to boil quickly It was already ten o’clock, and now that she was shaken from her early morning reverie, she wanted to leave as quickly as she possibly could. The beach would become crowded around noon, when young families, happy couples, and noisy groups of friends would break the morning tranquility with their shouting and laughter.

Not, Mae thought, as she carefully wrapped her breakfast in wax paper, that laughter is a bad thing. It is in fact a thing of great beauty and delight! But peace and quiet is a rare gift these days, and one must learn to take advantage of it when they can.

As the kettle began to shriek, Mae pulled herself away from her rambling thoughts and unplugged it as quickly as she could, pouring the steaming liquid into her mug. Dropping an Earl Grey tea bag into the water, she slipped her feet into a pair of worn leather sandals and grabbed her breakfast, a notebook, and a sharpened pencil, jamming all but her mug into the corduroy bag. Slinging it over her shoulders, she stepped out of her kitchen’s side door and strolled across her lawn.

Waving at Mrs. Winkleby, who smiled at her from her rocker perched on the woman’s large, wrap-around veranda, Mae turned left and continued to walk towards the beach, sipping her tea as she went.

Arriving there, she noticed that few others had pulled in—ten o’clock was still early for those who spent their summer in these parts. Kicking off her sandals, Mae proceeded to walk the beach barefoot, as she headed towards her usual spot down the west end. There, the dunes were plentiful, and their dips and crests provided shade and a pleasant seating area.

Settling down at the foot of a mighty dune, Mae leaned against a bleached piece of driftwood and languidly stretched out, wiggling her toes amongst the millions of tiny, golden grains. The air smelled pleasantly of salt and the gulls’ raucous cries somehow pleased her, as they circled over top the water, hunting for their breakfast.

Taking another sip of tea, Mae carefully slid her leather-bound notebook from the bag, and held the pencil carefully between three fingers, poised just above the blank page. The day was young and bright, and full of potential. Taking a deep breath, Mae settled back and looked at her page. And she began to write.

To Be But a Child Julia Soderholm

Julia Soderholm, 13
Rockwood, Ontario, Canada

To Be But a Child Annalise Nurme

Annalise Nurme, 12
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

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