Playing in the hazelnuts

The little girl was too small to play with the other children who were romping around the hazelnuts down the bottom, racing and skylarking and calling at the local San Lorenzo festival. She, on the other hand, was cautious. Not frightened. Observant. As though she was standing on the edge of a deep-green forest and had not yet decided to go and join the natives down in a dappled spot. Despite her smallness her exclusion may have been of her own choosing.

I cannot remember her name. Italian. No parent was in sight, perhaps talking back at the chapel, whiling away the hours between the long mass and the even longer barbecue that was to come. So the girl wandered a little further in, tentatively, looking and listening. I can’t remember her name but I remember the boyish haircut she had. Much like mine when I was a child at that age. An age in which parents seem to insist on that particular haircut.

So there she was, stepping slowly and purposefully through the first rows of hazelnuts when the skylarking turned to her. The older children calling through the trees. Calling “the wolves are coming”, followed by wolf howls from children’s throats, little screams and coloured clothing running the rows.

Still, not frightened but choosing not to play after her solitary steps in the deep-green forest, for these hazelnuts must surely have seemed a forest to her, the little girl turned and ran from the shade into the bright San Lorenzo sun of the field and left me in her solitude, under the hazelnut shade.

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