Last week, on our way home from the China Street playground, we stopped at the rusty playground. I call it that because the structures are all, well, rusty with peeling paint. It’s a playground that has seen better days. We don’t go there very often and the extent of play is usually just a couple of times on the merry-go-round. This time however, Raspberry stopped and played for quite a while. In that time, she met a new friend, Olivia, who lives at the row of houses just a stone’s throw from the park. Olivia is six and was really friendly and wanted to play with Raspberry, even though she’d come to the playground on her bike with a boy who quickly got bored. Raspberry kind of seemed interested in playing, but she was too caught up with her imaginary baby, which seemed to baffle Olivia. Nonetheless, they played and I pushed them on the merry-go-round a couple of times and I was glad that my kid was being somewhat social.

We saw Olivia at the same playground again this week and this time, with no imaginary baby to get in the way, Raspberry and her played for quite a while. They wandered over to the mountain ash trees, where they picked and dispersed copious berries, Raspberry squishing them in her hands and there was also some dissection involved (Raspberry’s word for peeling). When the novelty of picking berries had worn off, they ventured to a wooded area where they became avid stick collectors. The hunt for their collection took them across the street too. I asked Olivia if it was all right with her parents that she was going that far from her home and she assured me it was. Both of them got so excited when they found enormous branches, declaring them to be the largest sticks ever. Raspberry, ever the hoarder of nature, kept saying how cool what they were doing was. As it started getting late, I could hear Olivia being called. As she ran back, from a distance I could see she was getting told off by who I’d assume to be her mother. Maybe it was about how far she’d gone and if it was, I do feel bad but at the same time, I want to trust what kids say. Anyway.

It was interesting hearing Raspberry and Olivia interact. Neither of them seemed to fully pay attention to what the other was saying. Raspberry would spout random tidbits of information out-of-context and that probably confused Olivia, who wouldn’t say anything (although sometimes she would, like when Raspberry asked if she knew her five times table). Other times, Olivia would say, “let’s do x” and it’d seem like it’d fallen on deaf ears. She doesn’t have the thick Scouser accent, so it’s not hard to understand her, but of course this is coming from my perspective. Both of them had a really good time playing together. At one point, Olivia asked Raspberry if she was her best friend and I don’t think Raspberry knew how to respond to that, as her idea of “friends” usually means imaginary or stuffed ones. I also overheard Olivia asking Raspberry if it was the best day ever, since they were having so much fun together. Raspberry thoughtfully replied, “Well, there was the day we went to the beach at New Brighton. And yesterday (the Manchester day) was a really good day too.” I love her rational answer. I’m always glad when she opens up and plays with other kids. She was just starting to do that lots when we left Hamilton last year and then there was a long period where she didn’t see or play with any kids her age except for Jamie. We didn’t hang out with April, William and Aruna much this summer, but I’m sure that’ll change soon now that the weather’s turning cooler. Perhaps next week we’ll finally get to properly catch up with them. It’ll be nice for both of us to get more social again.

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