I just love bones, the way one nudges so nicely into another; the way the fat round head of the femur nestles into the deep bowl-shaped part of the pelvis fashioned to hug it tight.
I used to keep a little dancing man of a skeleton on display in my office in the years when I practiced massage.
He stood a good three feet tall there where he perched atop my file cabinet. You couldn’t miss him when someone opened my office door and I guess that’s why that little brother-and-sister team knocked shortly after I had arrived that one time. When I had passed them in the hallway where they were playing, they must have looked in and seen my clattery man, grinning down in that dapper little Mr. Bones way.
“We want to see your skeleton!” is how I remember the little boy saying breathlessly, while his sister hid herself behind him.
“Hmmm Well, I’m actually wearing my skeleton at the moment,” I replied, pretending to misunderstand.
“I mean it’s under my skin.”
He brushed past me and my silly joke and together with his sister entered my office.
“THAT skeleton,” he said, pointing upward.
“He’s scary,” he added gravely.
“Scary? No!“ I said back. “These are just his bones, just like we all have.” Then I went on. I can never help going on when it comes to this topic.
“Bones do so much for us, holding us up, helping us move, providing a platform for our muscles…”
“Look at his FEET!” squealed his younger sister.
“I know, aren’t they great, with all those tiny parts? And look at his ribs, like a perfect little birdcage, just right for protecting his heart.”
The boy swallowed hard. “Show me his skull,” he said dramatically.
“Let me see if I can lift him down then,” I answered and did so, causing the figure’s limbs to caper and sway.
The children squealed, and squeezed back toward the wall.
“And you know what the skull protects, don’t you?” I said. “The most important thing you have, which is….”
“Your BRAIN!” they both yelled together laughing, then piled back out to the hallway.
The boy dashed off then, but the girl stopped before following him, shot out one arm and waved a merry goodbye.
“My name is Terry,” I told her because we had not introduced ourselves exactly. “What’s yours?”
“Vanessa!” she shouted gleefully.
“Well then Vanessa, goodbye for now. We’ll see each other again soon, I’m sure.”
“Goodbye!” she yelled and danced away down the hallway.
And that was that. It was an exchange that lasted maybe five minutes, but even all this time later I still cannot think of a nicer way to have started my day. For the whole rest of the week in fact, I felt cheered and buoyed up by it, and newly conscious of all the small people present among us.
For if humanity is a forest, then we adults are its stiffly standing old trees, while they are the new ones. Self-important lot that we are, we imagine that we rule the forest. We even imagine we hold up the sky, with our barky old arms, hurrying the very clouds along to their next assignment.
But the future of any forest lies in its new growth. And the whole time we elders go on looking upward for meaning, the meaning lies below us in these tender saplings – like the ones I met that day, so bright, and limber, and trembling with that fresh young life.