A troop walks into the coffee house. Mom’s haggard, kids dangling from hips and hands amidst diaper bags and scarves. Right away, you know she rounded everyone into the car by saying, “how about we stop for hot chocolate on our way?” and then no one forgot about the suggestion as hoped, so now they’re here waiting in line. And by waiting, I don’t mean waiting at all. There are four little heads bobbing around, eyes peering from behind articles of her winter garb, hands “organizing” the pile of chocolates for sale, arms reaching up to the counter to show her what kind of scone they “need, mama!”
She can’t be older than I. Our eyes meet as one of her bundled units wanders in my direction. I’m leisurely sipping an almond milk latte while tapping away at my laptop. It’s ridiculous how comfy I am, and I decide to scatter my pile of notebooks beside me. There, now we’re both frazzled.
Her little boy (I’d say 5, give or take 2 years – I can never tell) has spotted the bookshelf next to my table, and he’s pulling books out, one by one and stacking them on the floor, naturally. His mom is now ordering with her back practically to the barista so her baby can’t get to the biscotti.
“I like what you’re doing with the bookshelf.” I say.
I’ve surprised him and he freezes. So I continue.
“There are a lot of books to choose from and it helps to get a good look at all of them.”
He looks at me and continues slowly pulling book by book out off the shelf and onto his pile not the floor.
“I’m um, I’m …um” he starts, realizing with excitement that he has my undivided attention and thus totally loses his train of thought. “I’m…my, um, um, I’m…UM” he’s kind of gasping and looks at me. We both recognize that one of us will probably need to pick up the communication slack here, so I jump in.
“Are you choosing a book to read?”
“Yeah!” Now we’re off to the races. He tells me in one breathless surge about the book his mom reads to him at night but sometimes he reads some of the words too! And he loves polar bears because they stay warm when it’s cold (hugs himself and jumps up and down) and it’s Christmas soon and he gets HOT CHOCOLATE WITH WHIPPED CREAM today because his mom said so (I was right!) then he whispers something about getting in trouble yesterday because he gave the dog a… he trails off, realizing the joyful dialogue has taken a somber turn.
“Wow, you have so much good stuff going on!” I say, impressed. “So…what happened with your dog?”
He shrinks a little and scrunches his face. “He threw up. On the carpet. In my mom’s room. And she was really mad. The dog’s not supposed to throw up. He ate meatloaf. Bad dog.”
“Oh, I see.” I like this kid a lot. “How come he decided to eat meatloaf?”
He sighs at the bad choices of his dog.
“Well, just because. And also, because he likes it,” he explains. “And because I shared mine. Mom likes it when I share because sometimes we have too much and someone else needs some of it.”
He beams at the good thing he did, then runs back to claim his hot chocolate, even though it’s too hot and he and his mom agree to hold the cup together.