Nov 9, 2011

On Optimism, or How to climb a Tree

The other day I watched my youngest cousin attempt to climb a tree. I'm not sure what type of tree it was, a native to Texas, no doubt. It was tan in color with branches that started about shoulder high on me. The bark was rough, almost sharp and my cousin would rip off chunks, revealing a smooth wood underneath.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "I'm trying to climb this tree," she responded. She reached her arms up above her head to grab hold of the lowest branches. I watched the small muscles in her arms flex as she tried to pull herself up. It didn't work. She rested a moment, then tried again, this time bracing her feet on the trunk and attempting to push off for leverage. Still no success.

"Let me help you," I offered. She puts her feet on the trunk of the tree again and works on pulling herself up. I grab her around the thigh and push her up. She struggles to find purchase but keeps working. "Use your arms to pull you up," I coached. "Like when you get out of a pool." She keeps pulling but doesn't make any progress. Finally, she goes limp in my arms and slides down to the ground.

"Let's try again," I said. She looks up at me and smiles. "It's too hard right now," she replied. I knitted my eyebrows. "Are you giving up?" I asked. Cocking her head to the side, she looks back at me and then at the tree. "Cousin Fred, the tree will be here. I'll try again later." Her wisdom caught me off guard. I nodded. As we walk toward the front door she asks me if I'm going to watch football all day or will she be able to watch cartoons.

Sometimes I forget that she's eight.

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