Subway to My Heart

     “Hi! Hi! Hi!” She waved her small hand between each greeting. Her eyes captured my attention. Bright, alive, mischievous – insistent that I see her. 

     I smiled and waved back at her, “Hi.” 

     About three years old, with short dark brown curly hair and vivacious brown eyes, the little girl wore a flowered dress with a red background. Sitting kitty-corner across the subway aisle from me, she perched on her seat, while her mother sat on the seat behind her. The subway rattled and rocked us as it rushed to McGill Station, the next stop on Montreal’s green line. 

     She pushed off the plastic seat and hopped the three steps over to me. As she reached up toward my oval-shaped earring dangling from my left ear, I was instantly wary – I leaned slightly back. In my moment’s hesitation, she gently rubbed her thumb and forefinger on the length of the earring, smiling slightly as her bright eyes watched me, and then fingered the right earring without the slightest tug on my ear. 

     Her mother called her back to sit down. We waved at each other the rest of the four minute ride. The panel doors split open, she turned and waved, “Bye.”

     I waved back, “Bye.”

     I smiled, perhaps as big as her smile, “Bye!”


    Holding her small hand, her mother and she merged into the melee of people going up the tall flight of stone stairs, leading to the underground plaza to either change trains or head up the two-story escalator to the street.

Streetlight in front of Notre-Dame Basilica Montreal. Photo by MDessein

     I turned the corner, found the correct direction to Boulevard Maisonneuve, and who is in right in front of me as I step onto the escalator? The bright-eyed little girl. She could have covered the rest of her face, and I would have known from the sparkle in her eyes of her joie de vivre. She recognized me immediately, “Hi! Hi! Hi!” and put her hand up. 

     My heart warmed instantly. I put my hand up to give her a ‘high five.’ 

She opened her fingers, put them between my fingers, and closed her hand around mine, looking me in the eye, as if she knew a happy secret. 

     She held my hand the entire way up the escalator, we looked at each other; she seemed to know clearly what was going on, while I held her hand in wonder.

     This child’s intuition, spontaneous action, seemed so clear and sincere. No hesitation, simply clarity in action. Her small hand warm in mine, my eyes moist and my heart entranced with her being.

     Countless times in decades past, I missed these opportunities of genuine engagement. I smiled and kept going. I would have said “Hi,” in return and gone back to reading or whatever important, adult thing I was doing at the time. 

     I now realize those wondrous moments of true connection, spontaneous positive interaction are more important, more life-giving than anything I might have been reading, planning for, or worrying about. 

     In submitting a grant application recently, the grant requirements helped me articulate a vital nugget my intuition has known for years: I write to help people see their humanity in others, to see their own stories in the stories of others. Our human connection. 

     Oh! I write to find my own humanity and connection to others. I tell folktales and ancient legends to connect with humanity, decades and centuries past. We are all stories. 

     “The Black Prince,” a millenia-old Egyptian folktale has followed me for years trying to teach me that. On some level, I knew it as I told the tale when teaching life skills, including telling it to my son when he was searching for himself. Then the Black Prince showed up again in my dreams and my writing a couple years ago until I completed the CD telling his story. The story of his search, my own unaware search, and the search of countless other people.

     Then this little girl, filled with joy and trust, held my hand the entire way up the escalator.
And I held hers.