The Crown and Greyhound. Sometime back in 1990.
The Little Girl was sitting at a table with her parents and several of their friends. She was eighteen months old, more or less.
The day was warm. Cardigans and sweaters had been shed and were piled in a limp and tangled heap upon the bench. The men rested their elbows on the rough wooden tables and curled their hands round pints of amber beer. The women drank from tall slim glasses, the ice tinkling against the sides, as they played and teased with their straws. The Little Girl was drinking from a juice box and picking raisins from a small, white, tuppaware box.
Another friend joined the group. He was carrying three fresh pints, and he gripped the corners of several packets of crisps.between his teeth When he reached the Little Girl's table, he placed the drinks in front of his friends and threw the crisps into the center, instructing the others to help themselves.
The Little Girl pulled her legs up underneath her and, gripping the edge of the table to steady herself, she rose and stood. Little Girl reached out for a shiny bag. Her mother gently took her hand and shook her head. But her father said. "Alright, Just one."
Little Girl's mother sighed and rolled her eyes but she picked up a packet and tugged it open. The Little Girl dipped a hand inside.
The crisp she pulled out very, very big. In fact it was huge. As she held it up, the sun shone through it and it glowed like a disc of pale gold. Little Girl's mouth fell open. Her eyebrows disappeared up, underneath her fringe. She bent her knees and bounced. No one looked. She shouted something but her vocabulary was limited and the word she chose expressed delight, but in a non specific way. Her mother half turned, reached out and patted Little Girl's behind, but she wasn't paying close attention and failed to notice the awesome crisp.
The Little Girl shouted again. This time her father looked up. Little Girl thrust the crisp forward. "Daa!" she shouted. The father laughed and told the others to look. The whole group were delighted and impressed. Little Girl pushed the crisp towards each one in turn.
"Wow". They exclaimed. "It's huge. It's amazing." They praised the Little Girl, as if she peeled the potato and cooked the slice herself.
Her mother began to clap. When you are eighteen months old, and a grown up claps, there's only one response. You clap too.
And that's exactly what Little Girl did.
We all watched in horror as the huge crisp shattered and fell onto the bench and floor. The flakes were papery and ordinary. The magic was immediately gone.
The adults exclaimed a collective "Ahhhhhh", and pulled sad and sympathetic faces.
The mother took her daughter into her arms, but Little Girl's tears could not be stopped. Her anguish was absolutely real.
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I dedicate this to Katie, the one year old daughter of a special friend of mine.
When I was visiting them a week ago, something Katie did reminded me of this incident. It came back with such clarity although it happened over 20 years ago.
Katie is at that special age when everything she does is utterly enchanting. When she manages to scoop a spoonful of dripping yoghurt into her mouth, it elicits a round of clapping. When she bashes out a tune on her baby sized piano, everybody cheers and breaks into applause. And of course, we clap Katie claps and we clap even more. Generally this routine is completely harmless. Unfortunately, in some cases, it is not....
So, thank you for jogging my memory Katie Mac. You're one of the sweetest Little Girls I've ever known.