“Do you want something metal?”
I looked down at the slightly dishevelled 9 year old in his blue school jumper. His grin was ear to ear, obviously very pleased with his find. It’s the sort of question that sets off alarm bells in someone who has worked with children for a long time. I immediately had visions of sharp and jagged things.
“Yes,” I said emphatically.
He held out his hand.
This time last week I was sitting in the sun and working on a mini metal art piece; 75 small objects all connected together for people to explore. I got some very encouraging comments when I posted a picture of it on social media. One of our lovely American friends, a brilliant photographer and artist, mentioned that she hoped it included a metal washer. This is not as random as it may first appear – she collects washers that she finds lying on the ground and then makes beautiful art with them. I said I would add one but I could only find a corroded old washer and I was worried it might discolour some of the other objects. Never mind, one would turn up eventually – they always do (which is worrying in itself; shouldn’t they be doing the thing they were designed to do?).
I looked down at the boy in blue. In his hand was a small, shiny metal washer.
“That”, I said, “is just what I’m looking for. I’m going to put that in a piece of art.”
He beamed at me, gave me the washer, and went off to make mischief.
I may have an overactive imagination (I do) but in that moment it felt I heard a still, small voice whisper, “Don’t worry. I’m still here”.