We’re all tired after our first full day in Florida. Tired, but happy.
This morning we went to a farmer’s market. It was early; unlike the one we attend every other Saturday in the summer, which is open from around seven until noon, this was only open from nine to eleven. Still, we were not so tired from having completed our journey here that we slept that long.
My aunt gave Namine two dollars of her own to spend however she wished. Then my aunt and Jessica walked at their own pace, while I followed Namine, who had set a faster pace in her wheelchair. The market was large, and Namine had in mind precisely what she wanted: fruit. When I asked her if she had a specific fruit in mind — since by this point we’d already passed watermelon, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, and more — she answered immediately:
“I’m looking for a green apple.”
She had picked the rarest fruit we’d find, I suspected. It was only at one place that we found apples, but they did indeed have green apples. They had little paper baskets filled with both green and red apples, each marked with “$3 per basket, 2 for 5” in permanent marker.
Namine wheeled up and flagged down the person behind the table. “Excuse me, can I buy a green apple?”
She was happy to sell her an apple. “How about sixty cents?”
“Sure!” Namine opened up her wallet, dug out a dollar bill, and handed it up. The lady handed her a shiny green in return, and after a moment, handed her the change as well. I showed Namine where to put her change in the wallet, which she did.
After Namine had had enough wandering the market — she had, after all, bought what she wanted to buy — we caught up with Jessica and my aunt, who told us about one tent where they were selling Disney princess necklaces. That piqued Namine’s interest (to no one’s surprise), so we set out to find it.
The necklaces turned out, as I expected, to cost more money than Namine had left. If Namine had not spent sixty cents on her apple, she still would not have had enough — they were five dollars each. My aunt told Namine that she had a special going on, however — the Aunt Finance Program. If she could tell her how many more dollar bills she needed in order to pay for the necklace, then she’d give her the rest.
Namine has been doing word problems in math for quite some time, but even so, I expected Namine to have to take a moment to figure out the problem in her head. But she didn’t miss a beat; she immediately exclaimed “Four dollars!” My aunt gave her the four dollars, which she promptly handed over to the lady, accompanied by the single she’d taken from her wallet. The lady, in return, let her pick the necklace of her choice. She chose Cinderella.
We were a little tired after walking around at the farmer’s market, so we relaxed for a while before heading out to the pool. Namine was ready to go before the rest of us, I guarantee you that.
The pool is literally in our back yard, so it was just a short walk away. In the early afternoon, it was about 85 degrees out, the perfect weather for swimming. The pool’s water was pretty warm, contrary to both my and Namine’s expectations, to be honest. Jessica and I took turns holding Namine, but we didn’t just walk around the pool (which went up to four feet at the deepest end) holding her.
Namine practiced her paddling and kicking, which she enjoyed for the most part. She still retains a small part of her fear of water, though, so many assurances had to be made that no one would drop her into the water. The best part, though, was Namine walking in the water. The shallow end of the pool didn’t start at three feet, the way most pools do. This one started at zero, and gradually deepened.
The result of this was that Namine could crawl where it was shallow enough — on only her hands, with her feet high in the water, when it got deeper. Deeper still, she could stand up on her own. I offered my hands for balance, but that’s all she needed them for. I will always remember the look of pure joy on her face when she realized what it felt like to walk on her own — no pain in her feet, legs, or hips, and no walker.
And I will never forget the look on her face when, walking from the deeper water back into the shallow, the pain returned. It wasn’t a crestfallen look, exactly; it was just… reality. A remembering, perhaps. Oh yes, this is the pain I remember. I don’t have the words for the emotions I felt, so in lieu of the words I couldn’t say, I hope I communicated through a hug. Paltry, perhaps, but I prefer to think the embrace Namine returned to me said I understand, Daddy. Thank you. Perhaps it said more, and perhaps I am not the only one without the sufficient words.
After we had come in from the pool — it had started to cool off, and it would not do for any of us to catch a chill — we warmed up, dried off, and relaxed in the condo for a while. We decided to go back out, to the playground not to far from where we were.
The ground was laid with chopped up tires, so not only did that put a halt to Namine’s wheelchair, it also made it exceedingly difficult for her to scoot across. I helped her up onto the first ledge for stairs leading to the playground’s upper area, but she did the rest.
Namine was not too thrilled, as usual, about the prospect of going down the slide by herself. But a little persuasion — and a lot of encouragement — later, and she decided to go. Even so, she didn’t slide down right away. She held onto the slide all the down — the first time.
Even so, she was happy to reach the bottom of the slide.
The second time, she dared to raise her hands.
A Florida sunset
Namine could probably have burned off even more energy than she already did, but we wanted to watch the sunset over the beach. So we drove to the condo’s clubhouse, where the beach and pier were located. Namine was less impressed by the view than the adults, but that’s usually the way it goes. She was more interested in seeing alligators, which we fortunately did not.