When I was backpacking Europe, the best stories weren’t always about the whole day or the city I was in, the something new I saw. Sometimes the best parts were five or fifteen minutes long – the minutes you’d remember from that day. The conversations.
Like when Pele, the bridge designer, found out I was traveling alone and insisted I keep his knife.
Or the stranger on the train to Venice who didn’t speak English but bought me a Kit Kat.
Or the stranger on the train who was wheelchair bound and taught me the importance of living life to the fullest of my capabilities – and doing it with a smile. “These are the times you never forget for the rest of your life.”
Or the stranger on the train who asked what my school was famous for, I said basketball, he asked if I played, I said no and he said, “Well maybe you will still be a playmaker.”
And since I’ve been back, I keep looking for those moments. But here’s the thing – they happen when they happen. And they don’t happen when you’re sitting there waiting/wishing for something memorable to happen, just because you conveniently have a free afternoon to sit in a park.
But when these moments happen, they’re really good for smiles.
I was reading my book in the park today. Avoiding laundry. Avoiding e-mail.
I was reading in the park because it was beautiful. Belly down in the grass. Old t-shirt and jeans, no blanket. A few fire ants. Iced tea next to me.
A little boy walked up . He’s wearing a Batman shirt, khakis and white Crocs. He’s carrying a dandelion.
“Excuse me, would you like to make a wish?”
I said I would and asked him what he thought I should wish for.
He thought for a second then spoke slowly. “A flowww-er.”
So I wished for a flower, and I blew on the dandelion. About one third of the seeds blew away and I told him I needed his help.
He said “You have to wish really hard! This is how you do it.” And he blew another third away.
So I took it back and wished really hard. The rest of the seeds took off in the wind.
Then he picked another dandelion. A yellow flower one, this time. “This is for you. Keep it!”
My wish came true.
He sat next to me. He starts making claws with his hands – “I’m a lobster!” – and then starts lobster pinching my arm. His mom steps in to stop it immediately. “We have to ask our friends if they care to be touched. You can’t touch them otherwise.”
He turns to me. “Excuse me, do you care to be touched?”
I crack up.
I ask him what his name is – “Zach-y.” He’s three. His twin sister is steps away with Dad. Zachy tells me his dad’s name is Tigger.
Mom steps in again. “And we normally introduce him to people as Matt.”
Zachy picks up a block of bark. “Excuse me friend, would you like some wood?”
His mom sighs. “Oh honey, someday you won’t be able to ask your friends that. It won’t be appropriate. Especially if you give them flowers first and ask if they care to be touched.”
Zach is eyeing my iced tea. I can tell he wants to ask for a sip of it. His mom hands him his thermos of what I assume is water. I ask him what he’s drinking. He smiles and says it’s coffee.
Then Zach realizes I’ve come to the park alone. This concerns him.
“Where are all of your friends?”
His sister walks over, blowing on her own dandelion. Zach asks what I’m reading. Girls in White Dresses.
Dad says to his three year old daughter, “Hey! We know a song like that! ‘Girls in white dresses…'”
And she chimes in. “With blue satin sashes!”
Snowflakes that stay on…
“My nose and eyelashes!”
I’m thrilled. A three-year-old in 2012 singing The Sound of Music lyrics. I love these parents.
Zach turns to his mom at that point to ask her something. I swear I mishear him until his mom looks at me. “Yeah, he just called me ‘honey.’ He gets it from his father.”
And then Zach looked at me again. “My mom plays games with me all the time. My mom is really silly.”
His parents decided he had pesterered “this poor relaxing girl just trying to read her book” enough, so they tell him to say goodbye. And he did.
“Bye-bye friend. It was lovely to meet you.”