Take off the icing she says to me holding out her cupcake. Are you sure I ask, certain I must have heard her wrong. Take it off! she says again.
I take the cupcake from her and lick at the icing. All of it! she says. I pause. Then I scrape all the brown sugar icing off the top of the cupcake with the index finger of my right hand and hand the cupcake back to her.
I stand sheepishly nibbling the large dollop of icing off my finger. I glance around quickly to see if any of the other parents at the birthday party notice me. As I sweep my gaze around the park, I catch sight of the boy sitting at the blue metal picnic table across from his sister. He is eating his cupcake. More accurately, he is contemplating eating his cupcake. Before he spurns it in favour of the play structure he manages to rub some of the brown icing on his new blue shirt already stained with pizza sauce, chalk and sand.
I pause for a moment after he leaves his seat. Then I eat his cupcake.
Do you want to play? the girl asks. My girl stands mute, uncertain what to say. She isn't often asked to play at the park. She usually knows all the other kids and so they just play without questions.
Before my girl can answer the other girl has run across the park towards her mom. Back again she comes holding an inflatable beach ball and asks again Do you want to play? My girl nods and follows her new friend towards the empty wading pool where they throw and kick the ball together.
My four year old and her new six year old friend traverse the entire park in their play. They swing on swings. They hunt for treasure on the small play structure. They race back and forth across the pool. For close to an hour they play together. As I sit quietly watching the boy happily putter in the sand and the girl chase after her new friend I decide that she needs to play with more six year old girls. A six year old can keep the play moving and changing and fresh for a four year old with an endless amount of imagination. At least this six year old girl can anyway.
At one point the six year old tells my girl that it is time for a snack. She herds the girl, and eventually the boy too, over to the kid sized picnic table so she can share her snacks. The three of them sit in a row with their backs to the table as they dip their hands into a Ziploc bag of potato chips. I watch the girl and imagine how happy she must be.