A family of husband and wife, three daughters and a son is growing up in the crowded suburb of mostly "temporary" houses which can be reached on foot or by motor cycle by continuing on past our house and round the back, along the dirt path under the steep hill formed when they removed much of the slope to obtain filling for the new seaport. The wife is fat and bigger than her husband, and she forces a thin smile when she passes me on the road.
The father recently towed some big bamboos, some fifty or sixty feet long and four or five inches in diameter, up the river with his boat. Upon disembarking he tied the bamboos under the hulls of our catamaran using one of our mooring ropes, which he had apparently untied for the purpose. Tackled about this, he denied untying it, saying it was already untied, perhaps by children, when he used it. Since we have never found it untied before or since that occasion, we formed our own opinions about the matter. You can just see this rope in the photo of our catamaran with sails set (lower down this blog) as a thin dark line crossing the nearer hull diagonally.
Up until two years ago the eldest daughter, whose name I do not know, always gave me a smile and called out my name in greeting as she passed (that is the custom here, even the tiny tots call out “Malcolm!” as I pass). Eldest Daughter also tended to fat, and was often seen with food in her hand, eating as she went along.
Then there came a period when she no longer greeted me, but averted her eyes. This period lasted about a year and a half, and coincided with a noticeable slimming and other body changes. Dressed in majorette clothes, a close-fitting satin skirt and calves trimmed with fur, she looked scrumptious in fact, which surprised me when I happened to see her pass in one of the many parades that happen in this town. Meanwhile her younger sister was getting very pretty, was not getting fat, and had started greeting me with a fetching smile.
About six months ago the shy period for Eldest Daughter came to an end, and she now greets me with a smile again, though it’s now not often the spontaneous one it used to be, but rather formal. Younger Daughter, less often in company with her elder sister, sometimes smiles that lovely smile, and sometimes passes with eyes averted. My attention is always transfixed by this girl, especially when she is dressed in her well-chosen casual clothes and not in her elementary school uniform. Not only is her face attractive and smiling, but her hips twitch as she walks in the most interesting, unaffected way. It’s off-putting when one feels the twitch is exaggerated for effect, don’t you think? The spontaneity of children is a precious thing, I find it a shame that it so often disappears never to be seen again.