I think she has about 5 words of English learned by now, including my name. Which of course in itself is quite difficult to pronounce according to the many teachers I’ve had in school. Apparently they couldn’t seem to pronounce two syllables made up of five letters, but this seven-year-old princess does what adults couldn’t with ease. This little girl with narrow green eyes and curly brown hair that can barely fit into a ponytail holds tightly onto my hand as we run to the playground. Every now and then she turns her head around and looks up at me signaling that I’m not keeping up with her. The constant grunts and tugs at my arm act as reminders that I’m obviously not running to the swings at her desired pace.
“Swing” I say to her. She repeats it back to me and laughs. I was asked to watch over her throughout the day at camp. Just to make sure she didn’t lock herself in the bathroom and ate enough during lunch, no dairy because it makes her break out; just the simple things. This is her first year at camp and I think her first year in the states, her first time in this paradise that I’ve called home for the longest. I don’t know any German, and she only knows a little English but we make it work. She gets on the swing and runs over to the monkey bars. Everything from the bathrooms to the other kids outside with hula-hoops singing Miley Cyrus is an adventure for her. After a while of swinging and running in circles, I signal to my wrist to let her know its time to go inside. The rest of the kids follow behind each other and line up to be counted by their counselor. Her and I kind of do our own thing sometimes, like going to the playground when she first gets here in the morning.
We leave the playground and head inside to the art room together, pointing and naming the color of each flower we see along the way.
“Red” I say.
“Rot” she says back to me. She holds my hand tightly the whole way to the art room. I think we’ve become good friends over last 7 days we’ve known each other. She arrived two weeks ago with her parents. Its crazy to think that the first place she saw when she came here was Long Island, let alone East Hampton. Many people dream of the this place I’ve taken for granted the last 22 years of my life, but after only a few days of camp and my company she’s fallen in love with its back-roads, summer traffic and expensive ice cream. Her father manages a company in the city and travels back and forth from Manhattan to the end of Long Island. Last Friday when we were together she made a card for him. I’m assuming she’ll do the same this time as she ravages through the crayons and colored pencils to begin her masterpiece. She gives me a few colors to hold onto for her. She begins drawing and writes her name at the top of the card above lovely animated sketches of her and her father. “Analise + Papa” it reads at the top. I quickly pull my phone out, and type the word beautiful, into Google translate. I try to repeat it to her but she looks at me very confused as soon as I open my mouth. I put the phone closer to her and repeat it once more. Analise catches on to what I was trying to say and still looking down and coloring, smiles and says thank you, one of her few words that she knows. A second later she looks up at me grabs my cheeks, repeating the same word I tried to say. “Schön” she says.
Analise finishes up her card and I start putting away the crayons. When she sees me doing this she starts waving her hands in the air to signal not to clean up. We still have some time so I nod my head and get her some more paper to color on. She begins to draw another picture, this time of her and I, and looks at me for approval of which color to make my dress. She made us look like princesses in a garden with two pink flowers on the left side of the picture along with orange and yellow roses in our hair. I kept busy and drew one for her to, trying to make something with the few colored pencils she’d let me use. I start drawing a picture of us as mermaids at the beach. For a minute we were aquatic goddesses gracing the two legged land animals of main beach in East Hampton with our divine presence. I soon became lost in a world of lines, curves and abstract figures, neglecting the time and the fact that she had to go home.
The camp day was coming to an end and our princess mermaid adventures would soon cease until tomorrow. All the kids and staff congregate in the gym for dismissal. I could see Analise hula hooping with some of the other kids on the other side of the gym, while waiting for someone to pick her up. “Ana” I hear a voice call out. A woman with red hair and green eyes starts waiving and walking toward us. I look at this woman and start to think that Analise must look more like her father than anyone. She smiles and then yells something out in German to her. Analise runs over to me and grabs her bag. She hugs me tight for a few seconds before leaving with her mom. It felt like she was holding onto every adventure that we had that day. Standing close to 4 feet, barely reaching my chest she looks up and smiles at me. I wave to her as she walks away, with her back turned and head swinging so she can feel her ponytail bounce behind her. I think at this point I have about 5 words of German learned by now.