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“Higher Mama, higher!” Rose shouts. The purple ribbon in her hair whips past her face as she stays motionless for a moment, before gravity pulls the swing back towards me. She kicks her little feet in the air as she comes back down, one of her shoes has already come loose and lays unharmed in the grass a few feet away. I push the swing, willing it to go higher, running with it for a few moments even, trying to give it that extra momentum my daughter wants.
“Whheeee!” Rose cries with triumph gaining a few more inches in the air. I sigh affectionately, now I’ll have to brush through her hair again; I can already see the tangles forming in the wind. A hand clutches at my leg and I look down at my young son Oliver who’s shyly hiding behind me. Two other little boys have a ball and are offering to let him play with them.
“Olive sweetheart, don’t you want to go play with them?” I ask. He doesn’t say anything but shakes his head determinedly. One of the two boys comes up to me.
“We’re playing soccer, but we need more people,” he explains to me and turning to Oliver he asks, “Will you play with us?” Oliver stares at the ground still clinging to my leg.
“He’s a little shy,” I tell the boy. I bend down and tell him gently, “Olive, why don’t you go play soccer with them? I know you love soccer, you always ask Dad to play with you. These two boys are offering to let you play with them, come on, they won’t tease you.” Rose drags her feet on the ground to come to a stop and hops off of the swing, breathless.
“I’ll play with you!” she laughs excitedly, then continues a little uncertainly, “That is, if you’re okay with that.” The boy nods his head, glad to have found someone to join their game. Rose comes and takes Oliver’s hand, “Olive, come play with us! I’ll help you I promise, we’ll be on a team!”
Happy to be with Rose, Oliver smiles and obediently follows his older sister to the field. I watch the game progress amused, the two boys might regret asking them to play. Rose and Oliver are unbeatable together, I yell some encouragement watching Rose go around one boy and pass the ball to Oliver for a winning goal.
Oliver comes running up to me, “Did you see that Mama! I scored a goal!” He spins around overcome by his accomplishment and ends up so dizzy he has to sit down for a moment. But nothing can keep Oliver down for long when he’s scored a goal.
“Yes Olive, of course I saw! I’ve been watching the whole game, you and Rose were awesome! Maybe one day you’ll be a professional soccer player,” I exclaim reassuringly.
“Do you really think so Mama?” he asks, “Like Beckham?”
“Maybe!” I muse. I look up to see where Rose is, wondering if the boys are giving her a hard time for winning. But when I find her, the three of them seem to be in good spirits. As I watch, one of the boys offers her a dandelion and she takes it beaming.
“Mama! They said to come play with them again when we come back!” Rose says eagerly, “May we?”
“When we come back to park, yes you may play soccer with them,” I say. She takes her dandelion and scrunches up her tiny nose to take a big breath and blow all the seeds off.
“Did you make a wish?” I ask.
“Yes! But I can’t tell you or it won’t come true,” she reminds me sternly before running off again. Oh dear, I’ll have to watch that girl when she grows up, she’ll be bringing home bouquets of flowers before I know it.