Contrast

Cameron was a stormy little bundle of chaotic, wild, kinetic energy. Toes tapped, bum wiggled, arms flailed, feet danced, head wobbled, eyes darted. Nothing would make him sit still. And here I was giving him hot chocolate (I forgot to ask for it to be half-sweet) and yogurt at a busy Starbucks. Cameron buzzed around finding ninety-six ways to do things he wasn’t supposed to do, and I found myself wondering if Chapters sells leashes or other restraining devices for toddlers. I set up camp in a chair where I could see most of the café part of the store and gave up hope of corralling him.

As with everywhere else we go, Cameron got lots of attention. What can I say – he’s sweet and adorable (biased opinion here I know) with his big blue eyes, slightly chubby cheeks, and strawberryblondish hair. He also has that something, that indefinite quality of charisma. A trio of what appeared to be, from the snippets of language I overheard, Korean girls watched him and giggled, entranced. A little boy sitting in his stroller watched with obvious envy at Cameron’s freedom – his mom probably thought I was careless and nuts. A group of four women watched him, puzzled but amused, as he ran laps around their table. One of a pair of men at a far table watched Cameron with an amused expression, something I’m not used to seeing from men unless they’re alone. Beside us a pair of elderly ladies, backs hunched over with osteoporosis, frail looking arms and legs, grey hair, and thick glasses, watched him and clucked between themselves a little with smiles.

The one closest to me leaned over to say hello as the blur that was Cameron paused briefly for a mouthful of hot chocolate. Her dentures were loose and clearly didn’t fit her mouth well, her blue eyes were a little unfocussed and distant, and her first language didn’t seem to be English, so she was hard to understand. She tried to engage with Cameron, but he was having none of that. The best she got was, “I’m two and a half,” and a belly display in answer to “What’s your name, young man?” We didn’t chat much, but in a few short moments and with a few questions I learned that she never married and had no children. “I should have, you know,” she sighed. She was the youngest of many, she said with a shrug, and it just never seemed to … well, you know. After that, she was silent for a while. Cameron paused at the doors and flipped down the doorstops, which would’ve led to the doors staying open, so I dashed to remedy this and remind him of the rule about staying away from the doors. This rule has several reasons, only one of which being the opportunity to dash out. Anyway. I returned to my seat, and to the smiling woman. Her eyes were so distant, her expression so masked, that anyone watching would’ve thought she was staring off into a haze. “You’re doing a fine job, you know. You love him. I see it, and he knows it.” This just about blew me away, as this was the eleventeenth time I’d raised my voice and I had insisted that he look at me while I talked to him or else so help me I would find a place for time out right here at Starbucks. I was feeling like I had an out of control wild child, not like I was doing a good job. She must have seen a moment of doubt in response, and she said, “I know. I was a school teacher those many years. You get a feeling for the children and parents, you know?” A few minutes later she informed her friend, or perhaps sister as they looked similar, that she was heading off. On her way past, she put her hand on my shoulder. “Love him. That’s what is really important. You’re already doing that, don’t stop what you’re doing. The children in school who didn’t get that, you knew it. Just love him and … oh, look at me, telling you this. You already know this, don’t you? Of course you do, of course you do.” We said goodbye, and wished each other well, and she made her way to the door in slow motion with careful and conserved motion, and in sharp contrast to Cameron’s supersonic velocity.

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