by David Sisler

Aaron was a little fellow, about three-years-old and full of the wonder and imagination of a child. He was standing beside a bright chrome department store ash tray. I learned his name when his mother called him to her side.

Aaron looked at the sand in the ash tray. Very tentatively, he leaned over to take a closer look. He was holding a plastic bag from a toy store behind his back. The bag was gripped tightly in both hands. For a long time, Aaron just looked at the sand. Then very slowly, he let the bag slip from one hand and with his free hand, he began to explore the sand.

He picked up a handful and turned his hand over. He quickly opened his fingers, all the sand dropped out and a powder of dust floated up. Then he began to experiment. He held his hand above shoulder height and allowed the granules to fall, a few at a time. When the rim of the ash tray became sandy, Aaron would dust it back to the inside.

Aaron's Mom and her shopping companion moved on and took the sand builder with them. Coarse grains of sand surrounded the floor at the bottom of the ash tray for a distance of eight to twelve inches in all directions. All of the remaining sand was piled up on one side of the ashtray.

Two or three minutes later, a second little boy walked by. The adult with him was probably his Dad. The boy was singing to himself. I couldn't identify the song, he was singing so softly. He smiled as his head bobbed back and forth with the rhythm.

Abruptly the man stopped. His gaze swooped down on the boy like an attacking predator. "I told you to shut up," the man growled.

I've seen puppies slink away from someone who has mistreated them. The little boy reacted just like that. Fortunately, he was faster than the hand which shot towards his face.

Seconds later, a third boy, came by carried in the arms of his father. This little fellow was wearing a small blue baseball cap. On the front of the cap was the legend, "Little Slugger." It's a style that has been worn by thousands of boys whose Dads dreamed their sons would become major league baseball players.

I don't know how old "Slugger" was. Less than two, I'd guess - and not very well coordinated. When he tried to touch his cap, he flipped it off the back of his head. The motion turned the cap around so that the bill poked his Dad in the eye.

There was a flash of pique as "Slugger's" Dad took the hat off his son's head. Just as quickly, the irritation was replaced by a smile. Then he put the cap on his own head.

I wish the first Dad, the "Shut Up" Dad could have seen "Slugger's" smile. In whatever fashion a little guy would define audacity, or maybe sheer unbelief - that was the look of joy on "Slugger's" face. It was as if he caught the joke. That look said, "Dad, you look silly, but I love you."

Aaron and the two ladies he was helping to shop walked out of the store. He was wiping dust on his pants. His Mom was giving his smiling, sandy face a spit shine.

I watched as "Shut Up" took his son onto the escalator. As they stepped onto the moving stairway a child heard an adult bark, "I'm tired of your actions. If I have to speak to you one more time, I'm going to slap you until your ears ring."

"Slugger" and his Dad walked back past me a few minutes later. Mom was now carrying the hat her men no longer wanted to wear. "Slugger" and Father, were skipping, very child-like, through a very proper department store.

I know two little guys who had a good time shopping. It was all because some big person remembered - perhaps unconsciously - that he or she was a child once. Love spoke volumes.

There is a risk that little "Shut Up" will grow up to be just like his Dad. And that will be too bad. For himself and for the sons he will take shopping.


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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