He was headed past the cloisters of the Governor’s Building next to Parque Calderon when I encountered the tiny boy. Or, was he “headed” at all, I began to wonder as those red shoe soles tapped hurriedly up and down on the dirty, rust-colored tiles. There certainly was no mamá or papá in sight, no tiós or abuelos either. But, it’s Ecuador where children are allowed more independence and held in high esteem and it’s much less likely for something bad to happen to a little one walking solo than in some other countries. I often see small children unaccompanied in Cuenca.
After I had captured several photographs of the little adventurer, I elected to watch, to see the story unfold and then, complete itself. There was actually a game in play as I suspected. A little observation began to reveal his purposes in peeking around and through the colonnade.
His mamá WAS there, she was shopping at one of the tiendas that line the covered area. She appeared more interested in her shopping as he repeatedly peeked at her from around various corners. She used many words but no actions to cajole him to join her. She obviously desired his return to her care, a return to safety and comfort, to be a “good” boy as she shopped for her colorful, new pair of shoes. He would have none of it and was thoroughly enjoying killing ants and licking a discarded candy wrapper as creative ways to express his newly discovered independence. He didn’t need her. He was a big boy.
However, her being close by was obviously the enabling force that allowed him to tolerate, no, not tolerate, bask in his recently acquired solo status. Being a dad myself, I thought I might know what was about to happen. And it did.
Mamá finished and called to him one last time. He ran away from her, laughing. He was rabbit-fast, even slippery in that yellow raincoat. She took off the opposite way, ignoring him, her bags swaying jauntily back and forth in synch with her stride. You would have believed she had no child; she never looked back.
He stood stock still, hiding behind a column and watching her quickly fade into the crowd ahead. Suddenly, it was over, as a wail to match none I’ve heard was emitted from that little throat. Like an unstoppable yellow and blue bullet he flew to her with those red-soled shoes just barely kissing the tiles. In a few seconds, he erased the gap separating the two of them. At the last moment, she turned and swept him up. The expected admonishments began as she decried his brief but successful independence.
That prompted me to think about the state of aloneness juxtaposed to one of togetherness. What causes us to make the decisions we do? Why do we sometimes want to be with others and sometimes, all alone? What is it in our ilk that drives us toward a desire for one over another?
Yeah, it’s great to be alone, especially if others support you and you feel safe in your endeavors. And, it’s great to be with others who take an interest in you and your well being.
I’m a shy adult and so sometimes I’m alone when I really don’t want to be. I’ve pulled up at more than one function and then had to drive away because I was too shy to go in and see everyone, even my friends. But if I’m enjoying the activities I make for myself, making art with my cameras or writing, then it’s really all quite good being alone. Especially if my real friends, my family, are close by so that I can see them, know they’re there, know that hugs and ears are always available if I wish. I need only walk over to join them and dismiss my current state of aloneness in body and thought. I love my independence but I love and need my family and friends. We all do.