I really should abstain from opening my mouth in public. I just. . .should. I can crash into ‘awkward situation’ with astonishing speed and frequency.
Yesterday, I took my son to the fair. The parking area is far enough away for there to be a constant cycling of farm tractors pulling wagons as a form of mass transit, so my son and I hopped on, and made room for the Radio Flyer Wagon being lifted on board with what appeared to be a three-year-old boy sitting in it, all bundled up against the damp.
“Mama, why’s that boy in a wagon?”
“Well honey, he looks pretty little. I bet he’d get really tired if he had to walk the whole time. I used to bring you up here in a wagon, too.”
Quinn coughed, and I automatically reminded him to cover his mouth.
“He’s actually seven,” said the tired-looking woman holding the handle of the wagon. She leaned down and moved away some of the blanket to expose what appeared to be a mini-respirator leading up to the tracheotomy tube in the boy’s throat.. “He’s just really sick.”
She reached in next to him and pulled out a half-empty bottle of Purell, while my own kid coughed again.
“Oh, well. That’s too bad. I’m sorry.”
One half of her mouth lifted in what might have been an effort at a smile. I’m not sure, as I was too busy feeling like crap to interpret it.
How did that turn into a train wreck so quickly?
Today, we stayed home. We had just plain old family time. No crowds, no social interactions were on the dance card.
Then my husband suggested the playground.
I’m always the one the barely supervised kids latch on to at the playground. I don’t engage on a personal level – no questions about their lives to speak of, just the superficial, playground silliness that I’m engaging in with my son.
So of course, today, when my husband and I took Quinn to the playground, there was yet another fearless, unsupervised little girl.
She announced that she was four, and that her father was playing baseball at the field next door. And from that moment, she followed us around like a magnet swinging toward a pole.
My son is a bit timid on climbing equipment and remarked on her springing across some bars and onto a swing like a ninja.
She leaped off the wildly swinging tire to stand beside us. “That’s why we always say ‘Russell girls are never afraid!'”
Now it just so happens that Russell is a close family name for me. And we happened to be in a town where I knew my cousin resided, and that she had a daughter about the age of this girl.
And so I walked right into this.
“Where’s your Mom?”
She stopped swinging to look me square in the eye.
“My Mom’s dead.”
Son of a bitch! And my heart crumpled a bit.
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.”
She just looked at me. And like the coward that I am, I looked around for an out. And I found it.
“Look! That lady over there has a puppy!”
I’m just really bad at this people thing.