I know what this look meant. I was there, listening.
The girl - a stranger you'd met on the playground - was telling you about how fun it was to play just the very way you two had been playing.
You were in emphatic agreement and slightly star-struck.
She was a bit older but nevertheless impressed that you'd already lost two teeth.
She also liked your name. And you liked hers.
The crinkle at the top of your nose is always there when you are listening intently. Your closed smile tightens your eyes.
I look at this picture and I see its ambiguity ... the face of a girl who's smelled something just a tiny bit off or saw something with a touch of derision.
But neither was a part of this moment when I snapped the shutter.
What was there, a few feet away, was another girl: A taller, blonde girl not so very different in age or appearance than either of you. Yet, I noticed your conversation -- even if she didn't hear -- soon made her so.
When you asked her to join you on the swing and she refused, you decided your games were better anyway. Without any meanness, you just moved her into another category. A different category than the one you were currently filing yourself and your new friend.
Is this how it begins? Where playground politics get their platforms? Their lobbyists? Their stranglehold on the developing child? There must be a natural order to growing up: A Darwinian struggle resembling survival of the fittest.
I remind you about all the times you didn't want to climb to the top, or slide on the curly slide. I remind you about how you sometimes like to play by yourself.
You agreed ... and then you told your friend "moms are always reminding you about stuff like that."
Perhaps it's because I remember this look. I understand it as sure as I know my own face. I know it has so many meanings beside the one that was behind it.
Love and observations,