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We were recently invited to spend a few days with friends at their place on the beach. Among other things, I enjoyed watching children and their families playing in the water and the sand. Barely saw a mobile phone or other e-device, and didn’t see a single child with one. The small ones were far too busy with their brightly-coloured buckets and spades, digging, displacing or otherwise doing something important with sand and water. Or simply running in and out, in and out, of the water, but running apparently for hours. Older kids played soccer or other ball games, and also ran around tirelessly.
In particular I watched a family group, of whom one member appeared to be the father of two of the four children, and perhaps the uncle of the other two. He was playing with all four of them, having them chase him, or himself chasing them like a dangerous monster from the deep, which had them squealing with laughter and excitement. The oldest boy was perhaps seven, and determined to tackle or wrestle his father to the ground. The next boy, about five, wanted to be chased by the monster, as did the man’s daughter who seemed about four years old.
Then there was a tiny tot, no more than two years old, wearing Superman swimming trunks and a cotton sun bonnet. Although small, he was quite robust and steady on his feet, wholeheartedly participating in all the rough and tumble and running around, overjoyed at the fun of it all. Several times I caught him momentarily charging along his own path, or heading towards the happy melée, and giving a kind of hearty, gleeful, mischievous and even innocently devilish little laugh, like an emphatic HA-HA-HA-HAAAA! A few times when interacting with the father/uncle, he looked up at him from under his sun bonnet, his face shining with happiness, and gave that same merry and emphatic HA-HA-HAHHH! And when a ball he was kicking rolled towards us, and Luiz rolled it back to him, he stopped, looked up and gave the same joyous strong laugh.
Isn’t this a key thrill of what it is to be human? It brought me joy to see him, and I hope he keeps that laughing glee all his life.
Image credit: sketch by JH Dowd