Today I watched a little girl discover.

Her name was Gabby. She was maybe 2 years old. I was at my science museum job, watching tumbleweeds roll through the hallways (school is back in this week). There was Gabby, approaching an exhibit called the vortex. She saw the colorful balls under the table, grabbed one, and let it go. Her eyes lit up with wonder and delight, and she watched, transfixed by the motion of the ball around and around the table.

When the ball disappeared down one of the table’s two holes, Gabby reached under the table and grabbed another. This one she threw a little differently, and it bounced around before falling down a hole. Another ball, and this time Gabby tried to get closer, closer, by inching up on the table. That’s how I learned her name, as the adults with her told her, “Gabby, no.”

Undaunted, she tried approach after approach with the balls. One bounced off the table and away. “Uh oh,” Gabby said, then joyously chased down the bounce-bounce-bouncing ball. Again, Gabby tried to get closer, only to be rebuffed by her adults. I wanted to scream, “Let her explore!” but I held back.

Finally, the inevitable happened. The adults got bored. “Come on, Gabby, let’s go.” Gabby didn’t want to go. She was exploring, discovering amazing new things with each ball she rolled. What more could one want from a visit to the science museum? But the adults were insistent. “Gabby, now,” and Gabby, reluctantly, moved on. Later I saw her trying to crawl under the barrier to the Foucault Pendulum, then discovering, with that same joy, the model pendulum alongside it, swinging the ball around and around and around.

It was painfully beautiful to watch, and it reminded me of how the simplest things, if they’re real, if they’re true, are anything but boring when looked at the right way. And it reminded me to try, and try, and try so hard to remember what it was like to see the world through Gabby’s eyes.

I think I was Gabby’s starfish.

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