Saturday, September 21, 2013

On Seeking and Hiding

Ayla at Play by Herself
The other day I watched my three-year-old granddaughter playing hide and seek by herself.

My initial chuckle quickly gave way to sheer delight as Ayla proceeded without hesitation to do something utterly undoable. I choked back an impulse to point out to the child that this game requires at least two players.

I was gratified that a few minutes earlier I had been dismissed from any further obligation to play. We had just driven an imaginary car to an imaginary park and had swung on some imaginary swings. I thought I had performed admirably, but then she said, "Okay Papa, you can sit down now and I will play." I retreated to a nearby chair and opened my Kindle, peering occasionally over the top cover to watch as she created worlds populated by mermaids, princesses, and an assortment of "not too scary" villains.

Ayla's universe had changed in the past few weeks because her big sister Ashley had headed off to kindergarten. Having Mommy all to herself wasn't hard to take, but she also developed new play patterns shaped around the fact that Ashley was not available for much of the day. So Ayla was learning how to play by herself, including hide and seek.

I began to reflect on all of this and then I got to worrying about her a little bit. What if she went to hide and couldn't find herself? This could be a serious problem. How long would she lay silently in place before yelling at herself, "I'm under the bed, stupid!" (She's not supposed to use that word, but who's to know? She's hidden after all.)

Then there's the difficulty of being the seeker. If you're looking for yourself you'd hide your eyes and, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. "Here I come, ready or not." But you'd already be there, which would tend to take a bit of the fun out of the chase.

Not too much time passed, however, before I knew this little drama was taking on a deeper and more serious significance for me. In my life I know there have been times when I went looking for answers that were already within and did not require searching so much as recognition. And likewise, how often have I hidden in fear or anxiety only to discover that the scary monster, whether green and scaly or the whisper of the wind, was right beside me, counting to ten.

It left me silently humming. (If Ayla can play hide and seek by herself I can hum silently.) The lyrics lifted up from the journey of my life:

         I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind, but now I see.

These granddaughters are going to be the life of me yet.

And now I think I'll go down to the solitude of my basement and have a vigorous game of ping pong. I beat myself last week and am anxious to get revenge.

Table Tennis for One, Anybody?