Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Entranced by Dextrous Fingers

AT THE CHRISTOPHER STREET stop on the inbound PATH this morning, a mother and her little girl boarded the train. The former was pushing the latter in a stroller. The girl, no more than 3, was quite happy, as train-bound children go, squealing and smiling as she rolled onto the car. Many kids take poorly to the rail-travel experience. Not this little blonde trooper.

Once we got rolling, the girl began studying her right shoe. She tugged at the lace, letting both ends go when the knot dissolved. She then unlaced the top two eyelets. The mother did not intervene. I credit her for this. Safe in the stroller as she was, the child was in no danger of losing her shoe to the oblivion of the gap between train and platform or anything like that.

Or perhaps the mother knew what was to follow. With strikingly nimble fingers for such a young girl, she took both laces and slowly began relacing her shoe. She managed to thread both laces back through the fairly narrow eyelets with delicacy and determination. Then she began looping the laces while musing to herself in an imitation of the singsong her mother might recite while tying the girl's shoes.

I was riveted by this precocious display. I didn't successfully tie my own shoes until I was at least 7. I didn't have time to watch the entire procedure, with the train arriving at my station before the girl could finish the knot. From what I saw, however, I am sure that the shoe was tied by the end of the line at 33rd Street. Whether it was an observant and talented girl, a mother unafraid to let her child learn when she shows a skill, or a combination of the two, it left me with some small hope that at least one kid showed a sign of becoming a self-reliant adult.

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