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More To Live For
Courtney, Age 13, Traverse City, MI

 Throughout the entire room crawling with kids that throw blocks at each other, wrestled, and sent tables flying, Clayton stood out. His baggy navy hood enclosed his pale face, but when he peeked out at me, I saw eyes that rivalled the blue of the sky and an innocent look about his face. He was painfully shy, and at first had shunned us all. Several of the boys, all of whom were older and were wrestling, piled on top of Clayton. "Hey!" I cried, running forward. How did I get into this mess? I thought bitterly, pulling the boys off of the tiny four-year-old. Oh, yeah, right. My money just wasn't keeping pace with my trips to the mall, and I jumped at the chance to baby-sit some kids at my old elementary school while the parents and teachers had their PTO meeting.

Clayton didn't say a word to me, and hopped away. That's what he did. He didn't walk, he hopped, tackled, and hid in the shadows. He wouldn't speak to any of us.

With about fifteen minutes until all of the little terrors were free to go, Clayton began to tail after my little brother, for whom he sought out solace and ended up giving him a hug. My little brother was not an emotional kid and was taken aback, but agreed to play blocks with Clayton so that I could get the rest of the kids settled down. It hurt me a little, because I was usually good with younger kids, but I shrugged it off. He and Clayton trudged off to the corner and started making towers, while I pried the kids off of one another and set tables straight.

Five minutes left. Yes, I thought, I made it through! Maybe I'd get to see at least a little bit of that TV show I was dying to see, even though I knew it was almost over. I sure as heck wasn't going to come back here and baby-sit again, that was for sure! However, I felt a constant tugging at my sleeve that interrupted my ranting and looked down, shocked, to see little Clayton, looking at me with his wide, sad blue eyes. "Want to come see what I made?" he asked me excitedly. I nodded and followed him to where he had made, as he explained to me in a rush, a train track. I nodded in awe and praised his work, and soon Clayton had left my brother to come and play with me, showing me the amazing things about his track. Clayton began to trust me, and I was attached to the little kid as he dedicated himself to his train track.

With a frantic wave, my friend hissed from across the room, "Courtney! The meeting's almost over, we have to clean up!"

In a frenzy as I stared around at the trashed classroom, I said, "Clayton, we've got to pack up!"

He looked at me.

I pretended to look at the door expectantly. "Clayton, I think I hear your mom coming," I said hurriedly, already shoving the blocks back into place, although I heard nothing of the sort. Without the slightest change of expression, he merely shook his head and softly uttered, "No, that's not my mommy. My mommy's not here. She's dead."

I stopped, frozen in the act of putting the box of blocks onto the shelf.

"Oh, Clayton," I said, looking at him with sorrow as I stooped down to level myself with the four-year-old and I gave him a small hug. "I'm so sorry..."

"That's okay." He smiled at me and his blue eyes finally sparkled.

"She's in Heaven."

And that did it. I very nearly cried, but my mind just raced. It had taken little Clayton to show me there was so much more to life than just shopping at the mall or getting home to watch TV, and suddenly I felt remorse. I loved my parents, and they were still around. Yet Clayton was only four, and he had just barely begun to live life and had no mother to live it with. I was eternally grateful to have my parents, and as Clayton turned to leave and find his dad, I gave him a huge hug, which he returned. "See you, Clayton," I whispered. He gave me an innocent smile.

"Bye!"

And I thought, with a tiny smile, Maybe I'll come back here to baby-sit next time, after all.

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