Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Water Babies

"We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today."
-Stacia Tauscher

Eight years ago in Ireland I was wandering by a nearby lake when I sat down on the grassy bank and began to watch a group of children playing in the water.
One little boy, who was unfortunately overweight for his age, was clearly the least popular because his friends suddenly looked at him, laughed and scrambled from the water while he was not looking, in an attempt to get away from him.
The poor boy was not quick to understand that they were playing a trick on him, and he kept calling both for them to come back and for his parents to look at him as he tried to swim.
It was heartbreaking.
Finally, magically, he began to float, and he was swimming. He was stunned by his own ability. Sadly, not one of his friends and not one adult turned around when he began calling for them to see him, to look at him.
Only I saw it, and I never forgot.
I wrote the following poem almost immediately after returning home that afternoon.

Water Babies

Four water babies enjoying the Summer sun;
I passed by the lake in the midst of their play.
Three jumped from the water, left their friend alone
Though he cried for them to wait: this poem is for him.

He stayed when he realised they were gone.
He stood lonely, knee deep in humiliation
and then, bravely, taught himself to swim
in the shallow water: this poem is for him.

I broke a little at the sight:
his family distanced and their backs all turned
never seeing the significance of his moment.
"I'm doing it!" he cried to no one: this poem is for him.



Beth said...

There is so much truth in this. I work with the very most vulnerable kids and it is often heartbreaking. I hope that he saw your smile at his swimming--you never know what kids will latch onto--sometimes the smallest bit of kindness makes all the difference.

Pappy said...

He probably grew up and competed in the Olympics or starred on Bay Watch. Who knows what impression your attention left on this husky little fellow. Thanks for the poem too. Very real sentiment.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Beth, I'm sure that you see this a lot. The littlest thing can make a difference for worse or better in someone's life especially children.

Texican, or maybe he plans to be the first man to row in a yellow dinghy across the Atlantic Ocean...

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful and touching poem. You have obvious talent.

Jaime said...

You have such a beautiful compassionate heart...not only to watch this little boy struggle and feel such empathy for him, but to bring it within yourself and write such a beautiful poem about how frail we can be as human beings.
If only this boy knew that someone did notice him and lovingly recognized his triumps as he learned to float.

mermaid said...

I think he touched something in your inner child's heart. Another being's suffering can either open or close us.

I see your heart as his shelter in this piece, and I am glad you opened.

hele said...

You already had my attention with your opening quote. This is a subject close to my heart and one of the reasons I went back to University.

Just beautiful.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Natasha, wow. Thank you. That's high praise. Sharing poetry is always different from the stories. More personal and a good deal harder to share. I don't quite know why that is.

Jaime, I think I identified with him in a strange way. I hope he wasn't so frail that it stayed with him though. I really hope not.

Mermaid, I felt so bad for him in such an important moment. Of course his friends were just children too and can't be blamed but it doesn't make it any easier for him. I hope he knew I was looking.

Hele, thank you for your inspiring comment. I'm glad the story meant something to you.

Barb said...

What a touching story. I sympathize with little man .. I'll share secret with you. I grew up very much the last man out or th wallflower, so I remember all too painfully what it was like to be in this position.

Thanks for sharing this.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Barb, I'm not unfamiliar with that feeling myself. There are probably more of us than one would ever suspect :)
Thank YOU for sharing that.

polona said...

these things hurt when you are a child...
love the poem... a touching post altogether.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Polona, they do hurt and too often 'grown ups' don't see that. Thank you for your thoughts.

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