Toddlers in the Park


Finger puppets!..

Wondering the Pearl District in Portland last week after a two-hour soul-bathing expedition at Powell’s Bookstore, I serendipitously discovered something I haven’t seen before.

I often forget how playful life can be. And then, when I am peacefully going about my business aimlessly wondering the streets of a new city, needing to feel its foreign air, placing my finger on its pulse, there – out of nowhere – I stumble onto something odd and weird and colorful and deliciously silly and just for fun kind of a thing.

I am in this marvelous little weird Oriental, Asian, crafts and “stuff” sort of a store. I am intellectually at the toddler in the park stage. Going aimlessly from corner to corner, shelf to shelf, more interested in colors, and smells and hues and light at an angle – killing time, discovering newness and nothingness. Do I really have to have a reason to be there? And sometimes what is the reason to be anywhere?  So, in this idle mood of mine, I spot a small basket. I squint. I see these wool stripes of cloth and small animal faces, a monkey, a sheep, a lion and a dog…I am clueless. Can’t figure out what these things are.

I can picture now what I must have looked like, standing there staring questioningly into the basket. “Finger puppets” says a nice young woman peering  over my shoulder. The village idiot in the store – that’s me all right – stares blankly back. I frown. “Ahm…what are finger puppets?’ I murmur. What do I know about such things? I have been in business all my life, no time to play, no time to look, no time to see, no time to spend idle afternoons going through colorful baskets in tiny little weird shops. The woman smiles. She picks up two of them and puts them on her fingers. She moves and twists and dances them and now I am smiling, too.

Who would have thought to come up with such a silly little thing? I buy two of them – embarrassed by my ignorance, this is the only way I can think of making up for it.

While the idiot smile is hanging crooked on my face, I begin to get it! Life does not always have to have a bigger meaning, objective, scope, deliverable and deadline. No branding strategy, no marketing approaches, no reasons actually. Sometimes, life is just for play. I go back to my laptop and straight to my goddess’ shrine, I google “finger puppets”. I am blown away! 453,000 pages dedicated to this craft. Apparently, there  is a market, an audience, a trade, an interest.

I am smiling. Actually, I am writing this and I am still smiling. You can make anything you want out of life. You can choose to never play, wear, see or dance the finger puppets – or you can pause and smile and take the time to be the toddler in the park again, laughing and smiling at small and silly little things with no grander scheme, no reason.

And as a dear friend of mine says, “if you can’t laugh at life, you haven’t gotten the joke yet.”

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