By Emily Rosen
I was sitting in the big chair getting a pedicure at the Vietnamese Nail Salon on a school holiday.
The 10-year-old son of the salon owner wandered aimlessly around the salon, closely watched by his mother and grandmother, and other working relatives. The young boy was friendly and alert, and everything about him signaled “smart.” He stopped by my chair and we exchanged a few words about his vacation and school.
And then, without any warning, he looked up at me and asked, “What do you do when you’re bored?”
Somehow, from that childish stance, I sensed a really thoughtful and serious mind; although, I had to ask him to repeat the question to give myself time to construct an age-appropriate response. And then, no! My response was un-tethered to age. I merely blurted out the unvarnished truth as if I were on a podium giving a lecture.
“Bored?” I repeated “I’m never bored.”
“How come?” he asked, with genuine curiosity.
“Because I love my own company, and I have so many thoughts running through my head that I can seem to be doing nothing, but I am thinking all the time.”
He scrunched up his nose and leaned closer to me. “Yes, but what do you DO when you have nothing to do?”
The “thinking” part was too abstract.
“Well,” I felt I owed him something more concrete. “I read, I write, I listen to music and REALLY listen, I love to invent new recipes from leftover food, I ….”
My voice trailed as he jumped up and ran to one of the back rooms of the salon, leaving me thinking seriously about “boredom.” I didn’t want to tell him that I have occasionally felt considerably more bored in the company of some people than when I am alone.
Within a few minutes, he returned with a few sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 white typing paper, which he evidently retrieved from a printer. He squatted easily at a site close to my chair and began to fold a sheet of paper very purposefully. He looked up at me quizzically.
“Origami! “ he stated, “You know what that is?”
I nodded affirmatively, watching him construct – all with folds — a perfectlysquare paper box about 2” in depth with a tidy reinforced rim around it.
“That’s great,” I said. “What will you do with that?”
Instantly, his mother, who was “doing” my fingernails, pulled several bills from her pocket and tossed them into the box, sending her son directly to the cash register to perform a familiar task, as they conversed easily in their high-pitched Vietnamese language.
He returned to my chair, told me his name and then felt obligated to add that it wasn’t his actual Vietnamese name, which he pronounced for me, and which I couldn’t repeat if my life had depended on it. He had no trouble pronouncing my name. We chatted about school and his favorite subject, math, and some things he could do when he felt bored.
He is one of the “dream” kids, not born here, but who will grow up to be one of our national treasures if he is allowed to remain in this country and become a citizen. And he is not likely ever to be bored.