I live about 4 blocks from the heart of downtown Cincinnati – Fountain Square. Several nights a week I eat down there. When people come to visit, we walk down there. When there are events, I often go. Different types of music fill the air every night of the week. People protesting the Syrian government stand alongside people hiring horse drawn carriages. Hotels and the convention center bring different people to the neighborhood. One week, quilt makers. Latino activists the next. People of all ages and races congregate there. It is one of the few places I have found where everyone does not look alike, and that is great thing.
The last time my family came to town we ate dinner on the square. We gorged ourselves on a huge pile of loaded nachos, along with a few other things. Then we found ice cream and a table to watch music. A rock band was playing. A cross between 70’s classic rock and 80’s hairspray. Driving guitar licks made our table shake. It was fun to people watch. Yuppie couples wander through on their way to the swanky Italian restaurant. Hip hop teens let their jeans hang around their ankles amidst hormones, smart phones, and swagger. Strollers, walkers, high heels, and gym shoes can be seen.
It is in this world, with ice cream-kissed lips, one of my nieces (who is 6) began to dance. She took her hair out of the barrettte in which it had been loosely placed and proceeded to sway and jump to the music. She lost herself in the moment. People walked by and smiled. I taught her how to play air guitar. My eldest niece (who is 10) was mortified. She hated the music and did not like having people watch her little sister. She was “embarassed” and immediately wanted to leave. The little one was having so much fun, we stayed a few minutes letting her remain lost in joy. So seldom do I see joy, much less fully experience it, I wanted to savor this moment. I wish I would have taken a picture, but I don’t think it would have done justice to the emotion.
We wound up leaving our table and heading toward home after dancing for a while and an artist was drawing pencil portraits alongside the fountain. He was an elderly man with mahogany skin and eyes like oceans during a hurricane. His clothes were tattered, and his heart seemed gentle. He had a few pencils and pieces of white paper. My eldest niece thought it would be neat to have him draw their picture. We decided they should have a portrait done together.
They sat quietly while he drew their faces – noticing each curve and nuance. Patiently focusing, he would draw, erase, smudge, draw. Slowly the picture emerged. Along the way, he would remark that he had never drawn angels before. The girls sat perfectly still while the portrait was being drawn. They could see the image from where they were sitting, so they would sneak peaks along the way.
After about 30 minutes, the portrait was complete. It was beautiful. The girls were pleased. The artist enjoyed seeing their amazement. He smiled and touched my hand sweetly as I gave him 20 dollars. The girls could not stop looking at the picture as we walked the 4 blocks back to my loft.