Mami, Mami

Mami, mami! He says, waving a miniature hand in her direction, small fingers flapping against his open palm. ¿La bébé está? The same sweet fingers wave towards the wooden doll bed propped against the brightly painted wall, a bed conspicuously devoid of any baby dolls. His baby-soft eyebrows furrow over his sea blue eyes as his shoulders raise ever so slightly into an inquisitive shrug.

Where are the babies?

Behind me, the two-year-old whose expanding vocabulary has become the soundtrack to my days plays at the wooden kitchen set that spans the width of this library play area. She’s shuffling a thick plastic hamburger and a shabby fabric pear around a plate, all the while exclaiming animatedly that the oven is “Hot! Hot!” The child, still looking for the baby dolls, joins her at the wooden countertop, it’s dingy cabinets reaching to their toddler chests. He pulls a plastic ear of corn from where she’s placed it in the sink, turning once again to his mother.

Mami, mami! He brandishes the vegetable in the air as she turns from where we’re both sitting at the wooden children’s table, surrounded by plastic flatware and an odd assortment of play food. She responds enthusiastically to his proffered veggies, and it’s only seconds before he’s laid them on the table before her, to which she responds with energetic thanks, before lifting the plastic meal, as if to eat it.

At the kitchen set, the toddler pair has discovered two wide doors in the front of the set, which I explain are intended to be a washer and a dryer, information I guess based on the graphic of whirling bubbles on the cabinet door. Mami, mami! He says again, eyes light, intent, as next to him his playmate swings the washer door open and closed, checking that she’s not missed any stray plastic produce. He tells his mother he’s going to wash the clothes, giving her a cheery, Sí! when asked if he intends to dry and fold said imaginary clothing as well.

Moments later, I grin as he steps into the space between my chair and that of his mother, proudly presenting her with an invisible gift. It’s the clothes, apparently freshly washed. Oh, thank you, she exclaims, then leans down, inquisitive; Did you fold them, too? The little boy nods,, his tiny hands quickly waving in a folding motion to demonstrate his great skill in the care of imaginary laundry.

Later, the child’s mother reminds him of who I am, wondering aloud if he remembers that 4th of July evening, settling into the grass of the Lakefill, snapping pictures of him in my arms, grinning into the greying sky, the prospect of fireworks hanging over us, patriotism and bug spray permeating the air.

He does remember quite a bit, his mother says as he leaves the table, laundry having been washed, and returns to the kitchen. And I smile, wondering if he’ll remember this evening in the quiet library, swapping smiles and plastic fruit over a crayon-marked play table. And later, hours later, I think of the child’s deep blue eyes, shy smile, and his exclamations of Mami! Mami!, echoing brightly across those neat library shelves.

~Natalia

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