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Today is my birthday, and it flashed into my mind this morning that when I meet very-young youngsters (who are almost always shy around strangers), I ask them a question that rarely fails to break the ice with them:
“How many are You?”

Looking past the massive incorrectness of the grammar, I’ve discovered that the question is (a) simple to understand, (b) immediately safe for small-ones to decide on their own that it’s okay to answer, and (c) highly reliable at opening the floodgates of thought, consciousness, and Random Neural Spew.  I will almost inevitably get a hand thrust out at me with the correct number of fingers PROUDLY extended; if not, my follow-up thought (“I thought you were THIS many!”, with my own hand and three or four fingers up) looses any last bonds of mistrust for the Big Person Asking This Silly Question, and IT’S ON.

It’s a shame that we live in this peculiar world which has cultivated anxiety-for and fear-of almost anyone who isn’t a parent – but the delight at both ends (sending and receiving) of this instant conversation is in fact unending.  I will next hear about them, their breakfast, their hat, SpongeBob, the name of their dolly, the name of their other dolly, the name of their sister’s dolly, what they drew in nursery school that morning … and of course immediately have produced for me aforementioned hats, dollies, and whatever dazzling work of mature abstract impressionism was created that day, to back it all up.

Try it sometime, especially if you’re having a rough patch.  It’ll make your day.

PS (holding up hands:)  Today I’m THIS MANY!