The Watermelon Radish

The Watermelon Radish
A Kid's Point of Food

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chasing Monkeys

Chasing Monkeys

There is nothing in the world quite like those eyes.  Eyes veiled in a thick curtain of lashes, but wide, slightly watery, filled with admiration.  Then the smile, overflowing with all the joy that their little bodies can’t hold inside. It isn’t the way they look at you; it’s why.  Maybe because you helped them pick up a toppled truck, retrieve a stolen toy, or get one more Graham Cracker from the box.  Even the smallest favor can impact their world.  
  The moment I stepped onto the playground, my feet sank deeply into the spongy astro turf. I was transported back to a world of make-believe.  No longer a student, but their counselor.  The highest honor had been bestowed upon me: caring for children. Spotting my favorite camper brought a surge of love and pride to my chest.   Dylan was swinging from the monkey bars, his cheeks puffed out with the intense concentration it took to make it to the other side.  The moment he spotted me, his fingers released their grip.  Dylan hurdled from the monkey bars and sprinted towards me.  In the past days we had developed a deep personnel connection.  We understood each other.  His tiny fingers curled into my hand and the rush of sparks in my palm sent a smile to my face.  He jumped up and down, “Kewen,”  He could never seem to get my name right, so each time it was a new nickname.  “Kewen, we ride bikes now!”  He trudged forward, forcefully dragging me to the bikes.  Immediately, I saw him hop on the smaller of the two tricycles.  
We had established the bike arrangements on the first day.  
He had insisted, “I take the big bike!”  
I pleaded, “Dylan, I’m too big to fit on the little bike.”
His feet dragged across the ground as he pouted, “I’m faster on the big bike!”  Kneeling down so we were on the same level, I put an arm on his shoulder, “Dylan, I don’t think the bike is fast.  I think that you make it fast!  You’re like a superhero!  Like Flash!”  His chocolate brown eyes lit up like a tree on Christmas as he immediately switched bikes.
Though my legs were cramped between the wheels and the handle bars, I launched onto the winding bike path.  “Watch out!”  I narrowly avoided Graham as he stormed across the bike path after a group of screaming girls.  To my left, the rest of the kids played on the playground.  Isabella led the way across the bridge with her elaborate fabric wings, “Follow me to fairy land!”  
Hannah argued, “Why don’t you follow me?”
If a two year old could pull an exasperated face, this would be it.  
Isabella drawled, “Because I’m the leader so I go first.”

It really made you wish that you were their age again.
I snapped back to reality when Ms. Garcia called the children to the grassy area for group circle.  There was lots of pushing and shoving and deciding who was going to sit on whose lap.  All grass at our school is artificial, so it felt like stiff popsicle sticks on my legs.  “Criss cross apple sauce!”  Dylan made a bee line for me and plopped into my lap.  Though it was hard on my knee, from surgery, I could deal with it if it made him happy.
Our head coach stood in the middle of the circle, barking out explanations for the week to come. He gestured wildly with his hands, somewhat like a crazed gorilla.  Introducing the counselors and providing information about study trips was his main and only job.  Though he thought he did everything.  
The gym echoed with the sound of little feet jogging across the polished floor.  Thundering next to me like a playful puppy, was Dylan.  “I’m beating you Kewen!”  With his words I slowed my pace so that he was, in fact, beating me.  He raised his balled fists in triumph and ran to catch up with a friend.
“Kewen!”  I felt a tap on the back of my neck, and a tiny tickle of breath by my ear.  Spinning around on my scooter brought me face to face with Dylan, Jolie, Lochlann, Graham, Hannah, and Camille.  Camille jabbed a finger in my face, “Chase us.”  I tucked my legs underneath me so that I could lay across the scooter and propel myself after them.  “Alright, but I’ll give you a head start. I’m pretty fast!”  
Dylan yelled, “Not as fast as me!”
My hands paddled across the floor as I slithered after a group of screaming two year olds.  Alas, they turned at the last second and I slammed into the wall.  I was about to tag Dylan, but his smile stopped me in my tracks.  My cheek was throbbing from my collision with the wall, the muscles in my arms ached and burned, and I could feel the sweat at the nape of my neck.  Once I saw his smile, none of that mattered.  If I could keep him smiling like that forever, I would.  Soon, I was surrounded by dimples, bright teeth, flush faces, and rosy cheeks as they tackled me.  
Back on the playground, I was tired.  Hollis sprinted up to me, flanked by the rest of my campers.  She announced, “You’re the bad witch, and we are the princesses and princes.”  Before I could object, they took off.  I had already experienced their great stamina first hand, so I tried to leisurely jog after them.  I tagged bodies, fingers, legs, and heads.  It was no use, because they just kept going.  They didn’t seem to grasp the concept of freeze tag.
They were so ecstatic and their happiness seemed to be catching on.  My heart felt as though it was going to burst when the kids giggled and screamed upon seeing me.   They looked up to me, literally as well as emotionally.  It felt as though a warm honey glow was radiating from my body.  In that moment, I made a promise to myself and the kids.  I’d always be back to play with them, make them happy, and keep them smiling for as long as I could.

                                                                                                 That's Dylan 

See you soon!
The Watermelon Radish


  1. Kellen,
    I love this story/essay--you really capture the joy of the kids and the
    change in you. Keep it up! Hope the trip to Hawaii was fun.

    Aunt Melora

  2. are such a wonderful storyteller AND writer. I love these last two so much. Keep at this blog thing. It's great.

  3. Very well written Kellen! Keep up the great work!!

    Coach Raul

  4. Kellen -

    Another great post! We love reading your blog...

    Question: we continue to have trouble posting comments. Whenever we want to preview our comment it disappears.
    Do you happen to know what we may be doing wrong? Have tried doing it both with google and anonymous...

    Thanks again for sharing your writing!


  5. what a great writer you are becoming. tennis star. writer. you will have a busy life .
    kudos to you !

  6. I can see these kids and hear them thanks to your great use of words !
    What a fun time for all and for us as readers.
    Keep up the great work.

  7. Dear Kellen,
    I loved your story about Dillon and all the children. It reminded me of Tommy and his playmates when he was smaller. You have such a wonderful way about you and the children are lucky to have you. What wonderful memories and experiences.

    thank you so much for including me in your blog. i look foward to reading more.
    Best regards,
    Sheila Algarin

    On Sun, Sep 8, 2013 at 9:31 PM, Kellen Carpenter wrote:

    feel free to comment - you can always just pick anonymous and comment that way
    and send the blog address on to your friends.

    thanks for your support