There's dirt in every crack here. It's gritty and gross and the kind of retro that isn't remotely fashionable. Kids don't care. They strap on shoes that have slipped across this floor since 1979 and they grab those old scarred balls and do their very best to keep it out of the gutter. I'm worried about fleas in the carpet and they're worried about getting a second piece of birthday cake.
I never get to see her like this. At home it's all wrestling and rough-housing and 'Liiiii-um, stop it!'
She's a girl here. Here in the grit. She's got sunshine in her cheeks and all her little friends squeal and laugh and run around the tables and the old disco ball paints the wall with shadows of Studio 54 but all they see is fairy lights and all they want to do is dance.
All these five and six year old girls, dizzy with sugar and fun and sparkly eyes and I watch her spread her arms out wide and dip her head back so her hair brushes the top of her skirt and she spins and spins and dances her way into a giggle fit that bubbles up rich in my heart.
I want to watch her forever.
Every few minutes she checks to see if I'm looking, to see if I've seen the way she just twirled like a perfectly tuned ballerina, and I wiggle my fingers at her and she grins so wide her eyes are lost in her flushed cheeks.
Can I catch it? Just this moment? This euphoric letting loose and not a care in the world and where joy is found as easily in a filthy bowling alley as in a pristine park? Because I want it. I want to bottle it and drink it and find myself as easily caught in the freedom of being a child.
Because that is truly living. That is the joy for which she is named. This is how she teaches me to embrace each precious moment and I pray that she never ever loses the piece and peace that makes her open to delight in a dusty bowling alley.