Summer officially ended this week, but don’t tell that to my garden, or the kids on my block who are still outside on the sidewalk catching fireflies well past dinnertime. It is during that hour, the just past dinner hour, that you’ll find me in the garden tempting the sun to dare to go down on me before I’ve pruned the tomato plants that hang heavy with fruit, or picked the last of our lively beans that creep where they will.
One such night this week, András came to the garden with me, and pulled up a perky bunch of bright orange carrots with one golden misfit. Like almost everything that comes out of our garden or goes on to our plates, I wanted to take their picture, particularly when he dangled them by their tops in front of his vibrant orange shirt. But he wasn’t having it, sticking out his tongue and making funny faces. Luckily, our Hameeda came to his rescue.
Hameeda is the spirited four year old who lives next door with her two brothers, her older sister Fahmeda, her parents, two cousins and her aunt and uncle. The family, but in particular the kids, have become our constant companions on summer nights at home. At first, I was the garden lady, always passing in front of their gate with haphazard bundle of something green, which all six children would gather around to touch or taste.
But Hameeda isn’t satisfied with casual encounters. Ever since I met her last summer, she almost seems to wait for me to come home, leaping into my arms as soon as she sees me, grabbing onto any part of me until she is up close to my face staring into my eyes where I stare back, loving her happy eyes, her baby skin, her childish mixture of Bangla and English that makes perfect sense to me. If ever my arms are too full of vegetables to lift her up, she’ll accept a taste of what I’ve picked as a love offering instead.
“What’s that?” she asked reaching for the carrots in András’ hands. And before long they were hers, András was inside in his Lazy boy and I was in heaven shooting pictures of my little friends.
Although the kids are no stranger to my camera, Hameeda stood stiff against the brick wall, trying to pose pretty and perfect with her carrots. Fahmeda, always quick to leap to her role as big sister, called out instructions in Bangla, after which Hameeda would turn her head or smile bigger or lift the carrots a certain way. I snapped a few photos, then I pulled her into my arms and whispered in her ear “go wild,” after which she handed out the carrots one by one to her playmates and raced down the street, panting and laughing with the unabashed joy and wonder of a four year old for whom a summer night on a sidewalk is a magical and mysterious thing, full of endless possibilities.