The Little Girl, The Ice-Cream & Lola.
I doubt that she was as much as two feet tall--that little girl I encountered a few Saturdays ago. I heard her sharp sweet voice before I ever laid eyes on the lively little bundle walking swiftly towards me.
“Let’s ask that man he must know!” I saw her bouncing curly hair which capped her tiny anxious frame as she hurried up to me, “hey Ma-an!” she called out. I stood on that large rock just north of the restrooms at Delacorte Theater photographing Lola who was perched in the Beresford window, when I looked down to address her. “Do you know where we can get some ice-cream around here?”
“Well let’s see, there is an ice-cream man just down the hill there...” I pointed toward the foot of the downhill path leading out to the West Drive. She gazed down the hill where I pointed.
“That’s pretty far! Is there a closer place?” Her little eyes looked up at me and at that very moment I regretted not having a little ice-cream maker with me. I saw her smiling mother at the corner of my eye but I didn’t want to distract a single moment from looking at that precious little package standing at the bottom of my tripod.
“Well there is another ice-cream man just over that way...” I pointed toward the Great Lawn, but as I did it dawned on me that I was steering this little child toward a concession stand which targeted innocent creatures like her with their enticing products to which profit takes priority over of their customer’s welfare.
It was too late, I reasoned with myself--this little girl had to have some ice-cream and that’s that! We could address the integrity of Central Park’s food concession principles at some later date.
“What are you doing with that big micro-scope?” she asked suddenly while I was still engaged in working out which ice-cream man was closer.
“I’m looking at my friend Lola sitting in a window over on that building over there.” I pointed toward the Beresford towers beyond the trees across the West Drive. On hearing this my new friend appeared to have lost all interest in ice-cream as she gazed at me with a face which wanted to know, and of course see, this Lola friend of mine. “Lola is a big mommy bird--a pretty hawk!” I explained. “Would you like to see her?”
Up to this point I hardly paid any attention to the little girl’s mother, presently I acknowledged her.
“Your mommy has to lift you to look into the camera.” I stepped to one side of the tripod. As she brought her face hesitantly closer to the camera I tipped her little chin up gently to line her eyes up to the viewfinder of the camera. She squinted and peered and made many faces in an eager attempt to catch a glance of ole Lola, but it was difficult for her. Her eager mind and yearning for knowledge was slightly ahead of her physical ability to close one eye and peer through the other. We soon gave up with the viewfinder and instead I showed her the image of Lola on the LCD screen of the camera. This option brought a smile to her face with much less effort.
As she was placed back on the ground her little body danced with excitement--the sight of Lola had made bubbles of happiness in her sweet little mind. I drew from my pocket a postcard and I gave it to my little friend. The sight of the picture fueled her happiness.
“A’ Owl!” she said excitedly. It was a picture of Palemale and Lola’s baby with its head rotated in that peculiar angle which always seem to get a smile from young or old.
“Well she looks like an owl but she’s a baby hawk and she is Lola’s little baby!” I explained to her. The little girl held on to the picture and gazed up at the Beresford tower. I became determined to have her see Lola--that ice-cream can wait! I lowered the tripod all the way down as far as it will go and I re-framed Lola. I added an extender to the lens to make the image much closer.
She still had to get up on tip toes, but blocking one eye with one of my hands and gently guiding her delicate little face with the other I saw as I have seen so many hundreds of times before, the eager searching scowl suddenly beam into pure delight on seeing the treasured image through the lens.
“So this is Lola’s baby?” she asked me as she hopped about the ground on one foot having lost a side of her shoes sometime during or soon after the Lola sighting.
“Yes, that’s Lola’s baby.” I replied as I picked up the lost shoe and blew the tiny bits of sand out of it. I then lifted the bare foot of my little friend and dusted her little peanut sized tootsies while she held onto my shoulder for support. It took a great deal of restraint on my part not to bite the aforementioned tootsies before placing them into the little black canvas shoe, and so all five components of that cute little foot were nestled unscathed back into the protective care of their holder.
I drew some more postcards out of my pocket and selected a few which I showed my little friend one at a time and told a short story of those little animals which has captured my heart forever. Here’s Palemale and Lola’s babies when they were just born in their nest high up on a building on Fifth Avenue--see how fuzzy they are, and here’s a little red squirrel just happy to be looking out of a hole in a nice tree, here are little baby ducks that live in a pond, and this is a raccoon that was happy to see me I think, and this is Palemale with some sunshine on his face--he is the papa hawk.
All thoughts of ice-cream was surely gone by this time and soon I said goodbye to her and told her to look out for all our little friends in the park and wish them well as they go about their day.
I enjoyed my time with that adorable little girl where for a few precious moments we were in a world of hawks and ducks and raccoons and squirrels and innocent children with beautiful sunshine and clean air and no ice-cream and soda to rot their teeth.
I set my tripod back to its normal height and refocused on Lola who was presently having a nice stretch on that little oval window far over on the Westside. I felt somewhat sad that I may never see that little girl again and even if I did sometime down the road from here our meeting could never be as precious as this. I fancied ole Lola heard every word of our little conversation and that she will now be a kind of guardian to my little peanut-tootsied friend as she disappears into the big world forever. Just then I heard the unmistakable sound of her little voice cutting through the busy noises of the park once again. It appeared to me that the sound of her dear little voice came from somewhere in the direction of Heaven. I looked back and there she was running up to me with her little sun dress hardly able to keep up with her excited frame.
“Hey Ma-an again!” she called out to me waving the postcards which she still clutched in her tiny hand. “What kind of ice-cream they got over at that place?” she asked as she pointed towards the Great Lawn.
“Well let’s see...” I said as I crouched down to talk to her. “I think they have a white one with chocolate, and then there is one with a lot of nuts on top sprinkled-like--do you like nuts?” I asked her.
“No, just nice ice-cream I like.” She said as she raised her shoulders and shook her head.
“Then there is a kind of square yellow one with a funny face that I see a lot of kids eating...” I continued.
“Humm, they got all those kinds there huh?” she asked. I nodded and picked a fragment of leaf from her hair. “Well maybe I’ll make my mind up when I get there then...” she said and ran back over to her parents who were waiting on the path with smiles on their faces. “Don’t you want some ice-cream Man?” she stopped halfway over to her parents and turned once again to me.
“No, not now, I have to stay and keep an eye on Lola here...” I responded.
“Bye Lola...Bye Ma-an!” she shouted as she finally disappeared in the stream of park patrons along the main path.
I feel like I always see her when I walk around the Delacorte Theater. Now I know why Lola perches herself so high all the time; she stays up there to watch over the little children all over the park to protect them and to guide them always to where there are things to make them happy.