She's heels-to-the-door-jamb three-foot seven, and she has discovered that her world and mine are knitted together by bricks.
That she's been busy mapping the grown-up world as one way of figuring it out was no surprise. That the bricks were significant was.
She'd been shopping with her mother for clothes. One pink-and-white pick, she said, was to be her "reporting dress."
You see, she, her younger sister and I on infrequent occasions work together on a story.
The occasions, as I said, are infrequent. I try not to mix my daytime Pop Pop gig, watercolors, chalk and pencil, with my evening duty to ink.
But it sometimes happens -- something to see unseeable at night, kid-friendly; someone to interview unavailable by evening, kid-friendly -- and so they'll tag along beside me to some place or other in town.
She and I readied her in the "reporter's dress," and readied her sister in another, first for the late-afternoon opening of 101 Bridge Street a week ago. I, in my daytime grub-wear, stood back to admire them. "Pretty as a picture," says I. "Aren't you wearing your suit?" asks she, with a winning subtlety. "Your suit!" shouts her sister, with a winning lack of it.
I changed. And we drove off to 101 Bridge, parked next to it, each armed with a reporter's pad. They're handy for "taking notes by drawing," 3' 7" says. She may get quotes down more accurately than I that way, but I won't speculate.
But it was now apparent: the dress had always been a complement to the suit, since the time months before when for one impressive evening's event I'd gotten impressively dressed, and for which she impressively did not want to stay home and go to bed.
Her dress was a definitive claim to a piece of the landscape of "Pop Pop's work," an entryway into the where I inhabit when she can't be there to look, listen, and learn it.
On this late afternoon, I could not have hoped for two better assistants. Clare Booth Luce counted the serving staff, checked out the decor, and held brief interviews with three principal project movers: Mr. Manny, Mr. Duke and Mr. Chris. Nellie Bly counted the forks and spoons, then went off on a room-by-room carpet-check trek.
Under the lamppost outside, Nellie went on a new trek through the flowers, while Clare recounted what she'd done, drawing tables and chairs and paintings into her notes.
We got up to leave. Here's where the bricks come in.
She discovered that Streetscape bricks outside 101 "are the same ones at the fountain," she said.
Now, we have not spent a whole lot of time together on the 100 block of Bridge. Except, that is, for direct forays to "Orange Joe's" (say it out loud, you'll get it).
Our lives together downtown have largely been spent in the 200 block. It's a world generally bounded by Important Places Renaissance Park to the east and the Colonial to the west, with several other Important Places in between: notably but not exclusively Steel City (cool performance space for two budding journalists who are budding singers and dancers as well), the Village Art Studio (cool art), Ellie's Choice (cool stuff), the Pretzel Factory (cool, uh, pretzels).
Anchoring it all for them is The Fountain.
The water fountain in the Children's Plaza has been a magnet tugging them for as long as they've been. And, sometimes, tugging two of their cousins with them.
They will tell you epic tales about that space, of times when they sailed the mural-map across seas; or when hide-and-seek without many places to do the former required that they make the former up and then laugh as you try to do the latter when they are invisibly in plain sight.
Or when they just and very simply ate lunch on a bench there. Or when they just and very simply just got amazingly, thoroughly wet, in a place where you might not think, in 3' 7"'s apt phrase, "it is allowing."
There were practical arguments and strategic urban design arguments made four years ago for establishing a Children's Plaza where Bank Street used to be, all with children as at best a secondary consideration: closing an unnecessary right-of-way but retaining a vest-pocket open space with a purpose; retaining an alternate pedestrian route to the Foundry from that area of Bridge Street; making a space for children to play in the middle of grown-ups' shopping trips.
But once defined, the Kiwanis Club did us all a favor in granting "children" pride of place here, making "children" a primary term in the urban design calculus.
Three-seven and her sister own that section of Bridge Street, have made it a downtown home, because they are anchored by that space. Now, happily, even more clearly defined as their space with a sunburst arch saying so.
And if 3' 7" is a good guide, the downtown cosmology works this way. The Phoenixville world can be mapped by its bricks. The bricks begin at the Children's Plaza, and extend to parts of the Known World, to the Colonial and to Renaissance Park (where there is a brickwork French Creek to be forded) and to All Points of Interest in between.
The brickwork extends also to Points Where Pop Pop Goes That Have Yet To Be Fully Explored. But the two worlds are connected.
Through the course of last week, 3' 7" was discovering other shards of brickwork. There's the "rumble street" at Church Alley; there are two patches of brickwork sidewalk between my house and her Stepping Stone Education Center at Franklin Commons.
Perhaps the brickwork that stitches the community together, and that stitches her known world and mine together, moves like some creeks, underground, then pops up in evidence. But clearly, 3' 7" has it so stitched.
G.E. "Skip" Lawrence can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.