As we waited to board a plane, exhausted after running the security gauntlet with a small child in tow, I was captivated to see what Lina, our five-year-old, did. She scanned the passengers in the boarding area, spotted another five- or six-year-old sitting with his parents waiting for the same flight, and quickly walked over.
“I am Lina,” I made out her opening salvo from a distance.
I could not hear the boy’s response but guessed that he was saying his name. A minute later, Lina had occupied the seat next to the boy and they were wrapped in animated conversation.
Was my daughter preternaturally social, eager to win friends everywhere? She had swiftly realised that her parents, both diplomats, moved from place to place and the friends she made in one city were soon a thing of the past. She had learned that she had to find and make friends fast.
When the time came to board, Lina came to ask me if she could sit with her new friend.
“If you can find an empty seat next to your friend,” I said skeptically, as I had earlier ascertained that the plane was pretty full.
I had underestimated the ingenuity of my child. Duly supported by her newly acquired friend, and even his sympathetic parents, she begged the flight attendant to accommodate her next to the boy. Some discussion and some adjustment later, Lina came, smiling, to tell me that she would be sitting with the other family.
Knowing that she does not like to feel cold, and trans-Atlantic flights can get chilly at night, I asked if she wanted the blanket I had in my hand. She took it without a word, eager to return to her friend.
During the flight I checked twice to see if she was all right. She briefly answered me and returned to her conversation with the boy. His mother looked sympathetically at me, suggesting she hadn’t had better luck trying to talk to her son, who was too busy talking to his friend.
The next morning Lina was having breakfast with her friend, as I was sipping my coffee on the flight.
Four hours later we reached our destination. As we got out of the plane, Lina took leave of her friend and his family and joined us.
“I am glad you had a pleasant time chatting with your friend,” I said.
“Yes,” she said, “he is very nice.”
“What’s his name?”
“Where is he from?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do they live here? Or they travelling somewhere else?
“I don’t have any idea,” Lina replied impassively.
My daughter, I decided, had learned to live with impermanence better than her father had.
The writer is a Washington-based international development advisor and had worked with the World Bank. He can be reached at [email protected]