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Look Upon A Little Child... This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The other day, I took Karen, my four-year-old neighbor, to the movies. I have to admit, though, that my mind wasn't really on it.

When I rang the doorbell, Karen's father, Mr. Hart, answered it and invited me in. Karen was sitting in front of the television, her arms wrapped around the family dog. How long had it been since I was enthralled by "Sesame Street"? How long had it been since I could get covered with dirt without worrying about zits?

Mr. Hart shut off the t.v. and squatted down in front of Karen. "Karen, Justine's here. It's time for you to go to the movies so Mommy and I can do errands."

Karen jumped up and ran to give me a hug. I picked her up and settled her on my hip while she chattered away at ninety miles an hour. How long had it been since I had responded so positively to my parents telling me what to do?

Mrs. Hart came in the room, with Karen's jacket and the list of instructions and emergency numbers. I helped Karen put on her jacket, over tights and a little pink cotton dress with hearts on it. How long had it been since I bought anything without consulting Seventeen magazine first?

"Okay, girls, have fun," said Mr. Hart.

"Karen, give me a kiss before you go, okay, honey?" his wife said. I watched as the little girl held up her arms and her mother kissed her. How long had it been?

We went outside to my car and I buckled Karen in the passenger seat, then hurried around to the other side. How long had it been since I had been thrilled by being allowed to sit in the front seat, the way Karen had?

I backed out of the driveway and turned onto the street. Karen was looking at the radio curiously. "That's the radio. Would you like to turn it on?" I asked her.

"Yes!"

"Press that little button," I said, pointing.

The look of happiness on her face when music came on was gratifying. She played around with all the buttons - the volume, the tone, and the channel selector, then talked non-stop, asking questions about the groups and lyrics of different songs as they came on.

It was a short, fifteen-minute ride to the mall, and I parked, got Karen out, and locked up when we got there. We walked inside together holding hands. At least I walked; Karen skipped. How long had it been since I did that?

We bought tickets to see "Cinderella," and went to buy food. Karen hopped back and forth as she agonized over whether to get M&M's or Reeses' Pieces. Buying us both M&M's, a diet Coke for me, and Sprite for her, I wondered. How long had it been since I drank non-diet tonic?

We went into the theater; Karen running ahead to find seats in the first row. We compromised on a row half-way back. How long had it been since I saw a movie without a horde of boy- and girl-friends. For that matter, how long had it been since I saw a movie?

The movie passed by quickly. Karen sat on the edge of her seat through most of it. The other parts she spent in my lap. Disney movies weren't as boring as I remembered. How long had it been since I saw a movie without sex, violence, or profanity?

After I dropped Karen off at home that afternoon, I pulled into my driveway to count the day's earnings: . $13 plus reimbursement for the movie expenses. How long had it been since $13 was a fortune?

I sighed and went inside. We were always being told that these were the best years of our lives. And usually I liked my life; with school and friends and activities and pressures. Sometimes, though, it's nice to look at kids like Karen and remember.



Author's note: My title "Look upon a little child" comes from Charles Wesley's "Gentle Jesus." The full quote is "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child, pity my simplicity, suffer me to come to thee."n




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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