I walk away from him, my hand gently guiding him and he moves away from me willingly. I whisper softly in his ear "say Hi, tell them your name..." And he does.
"Hi! I am Matthew. What's your name?" The two other boys look up. My stomach turns a bit. Did I just send him into a hornet's nest? Oh god, I cannot save him from all of these kinds of moments but did I just send him to be defeated?
The two boys look at him. They both smile at him. My stomach uncurls. I do not hear their names but they both tell them to him. I wander away to the chapter books. I am looking for something new to read to him before bed. I can still see the three boys. Doing that strange dance that little boys do. They circle the train table and talk secretively about Thomas and Sir Topham and the adventures that only three boys can have at a train table in a suburban bookstore.
I stand back pretending to look at the books but I watch him out of the corner of my eye. I see him look for me - I raised my hand and waggle my fingers. He waves back with a big grin. He did it! He made friends and is having fun with these boys, one looks to be a slight bit younger then him and one appears to be slightly older. I read all that in the smile and wave from him. I grin behind my hand. I look at the books and wonder about him.
Who he will be? How he will handle these interactions one day without me? The defeats and wins of humankind when it comes to learning to make friends. It can be a hard lesson or it can be wonderful. I can hear the boys giggling and moving around. I can vaguely remember playing with my friends at an age just above where he is - five and six. We made up elaborate stories and games. There was an amazing fantasy world. They were the neighborhood girls. We were like a gang - getting into trouble and being good. Testing our boundaries. It was different back than. We all went to different schools and came from different backgrounds. We travelled without our parents. We went to the church carnival by ourselves armed only with some change and a cautionary word to be back before dark and be careful on the busy street near the church! I cannot imagine letting him do any of things I did as a kid.
I look back at the book selection keeping the boy's in my line of vision. My mind wanders. What section of Barnes and Noble did I frequent before I had kids anyway? I wonder. I used to sit for hours at bookstores reading magazines, pouring over books that I wanted to read, lingering in the music section. Now it all kid's books all the time and I love it. That is an unexpected thought still. Even five years later. I never thought I would have kids, never had that desire that so many woman speak of and feel they must fulfill and now here I am. And I love it. I cannot imagine my life without my kids.
I hear a shout, my train of thought is diverted and I wander over to the three boys but it was a shout of happiness. Maybe Thomas jumped the tracks!? Nothing bad. He appears to be shining with happiness. I run my finger over the spines of the books. Books hold so many memories. I spent my childhood reading. Hiding in books away from the fervent anger that pervaded my home.
I remember reading under the big trees in the yard in California. We had an old couch on the patio - how ghetto! It never seemed ghetto and I am not sure why my parents choose to do that but they did. It was a 70s era couch with dark wood and orange/yellow/brown plaid coverings on the pillows. It was a horribly uncomfortable couch but in the summer in California with no air conditioning it was the perfect place to read. I would ride my old green hand me down bike to the library on Pearl Avenue. I would fill up my backpack up and ride home. I would stop for a snack at the nearby 7/11 or at home. Than I would head out to the yard, to my couch. And there I would park myself on that couch with the dappled shade trees overhead and read all afternoon. Sometimes I would fall asleep while reading waking up hours later to pick up where I left off. What wonderful lazy afternoons.
I snap back. I hope he can enjoy afternoons like that minus the angry household! I pull out my phone, check the time. We need to go. I am hesitant to pull him away from his new found friends, the train table. I wander over. I tell him that in five minutes we need to go. He looks up and nods. Sometimes he surprises me with his compliance. I expected a fight. His new friends eye me. I go back to the books and find the title I wanted. Ralph S. Mouse. I look around at other books then head back over to the train table, the bowed heads deep in play. I hold the book up and let him know we need to go,that we have to pay for our treasure and go home to eat. He smiles and says 'okay'. He bids his friends good-bye without my prompting. They wave good-bye as well and we go.