Perched on the edge of the middle row looking down intently at the parking lot pavement, August rejects my hand to help him make this one-foot jump from the car.
As his kids’ size 11 Dr. Martens thump on the ground, he reaches for my hand and says, “I only hold your hand because it’s the rule.”
We walk for what feels like mere seconds before we reach the sidewalk and he lets go again; and I find myself thinking, “Here it is. My baby. My youngest. Letting go. Oh, boy . . . I’m not one hundred percent ready for this.”
He shouts, “Expelliarmus!” and marvels how the automatic door seems to open at his disarming command. Leaving me in what I think he must perceive as his dust, he runs through the mall–twenty feet or so–and suddenly stops.
A man to his left, sitting on a bench, slumped over and staring down at the floor–a man I would have simply walked by en route to my next destination without much thought–catches his attention. August turns to me and says, “I talk to that man? He looks sad.” I quickly survey the situation, thinking of all the dire admonishments about not letting children talk to strangers, and am nevertheless compelled to nod my assent.
August walks over to him–tentatively but clearly on a mission.
“What’s your name?” the emphasis on your.
He is startled but looks up. “John. What’s your name?”
“I’m August! I’m three!”
My son turns to me and beams as the man smiles; and undoubtedly thinking he can make his day even better, asks me, “I hug him?”
Completely under the spell of this moment, I look at the man and say, “It’s okay with me if it’s okay with you.”
And it is. And August does. And the man’s demeanor is now 180 degrees from where it was a moment before, his smile beyond compare. He says to me, “Ma’am, you are aware you have someone special here.”
And I say–and know with all my heart–“I sure am.”