It wasn’t too long ago. I was sitting in the food court of our local mall, waiting to pick up one of my children from some activity I can’t recall, when a young woman rolled a baby stroller up to the table next to the one at which I was sitting. Inside the stroller was a baby boy (if one can tell by the color and style of clothing these days), perhaps a year old, at most.
It turns out this was the lad we all heard screaming his head off throughout the mall for at least the thirty minutes prior. He was silent now. All cried out. Who knows why he carried on so?
His mother had positioned the stroller so that he was facing me. I looked over at the boy and, for a moment, our eyes met. Now, I have big eyes, so maybe that’s the fascination but, for some reason, small children like to stare at me if we have made some sort of eye contact. This child was no different. He just stared at me and I stared back. I wondered what had been troubling him. I wondered if he had been overstimulated by all the goings on at the mall that afternoon.
“Is it just too much for you, little fellow?” I thought to myself. “I know how you feel. Sometimes everything just goes way too fast for me, too. I mean, it seems like everybody wants a piece of you and you try so hard to give them what they want, only to find out that you’re coming up short anyway, no matter how hard you try. Your kids are growing up too fast and you’re never going to get this time back. Your wife is amazing but you never feel like you actually deserve her, let alone have the ability to take care of her the way you should. You’re not the athlete you once were and, just because you play in an ‘organized league’ doesn’t mean you can play like you did when you were 18 and not feel it for days. What’s more, you don’t need to be reminded that you’re no longer just ‘flirting’, you’re being a bit creepy. You know what I’m saying?”
We sat there, just looking at each other. I wondered what he was thinking. Maybe his mom knew.
“A bit overstimulated, was he?” I asked his mother.
“Just hungry. After I fed him, he just calmed right down.”
I looked over at Junior and he smiled that puffy-cheeked smile.
“I guess he’s a lad who knows what he wants,” I said, not actually intending it to be out loud.
I winced, knowing that was probably one of those “creepy” moments. Just then, the baby burped. I turned and saw him smiling again. I could have sworn he winked as well.