No one’s a stranger to a kid

Published 11:59 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

One day when I was out shopping, I saw a young mother with a beautiful baby girl in her arms. I guess the baby spotted me about the time I saw her. She was smiling. So was I. I couldn’t help it. “What a delightful smile,” I thought. Did the baby think I was somebody familiar, like her grandmother? No matter. I enjoyed every minute of our brief encounter. She kept watching me and smiling as her mother walked out of my sight.

If that baby is that friendly all the time, some day she might get her mother into some embarrassing situations, I thought. Both our children had done exactly that.

Our son was somewhere around a year old when I took him on a bus trip to visit my parents. He met no strangers. I had discovered on a previous trip that he was quite a handful if we traveled by day. I could keep him amused by reading to him only so long. He wanted to pop out of his seat and run up and down the aisle, socializing. He was too keyed up to settle down for a nap.

I decided to travel by night on this trip. Soon after we boarded the bus and began rolling down the highway, he dropped off to sleep. That worked out well until we pulled into the bus station at Atlanta at midnight. We had a layover before boarding our next bus.

As soon as we stepped off the bus, my little dynamo came alive. The busy bus station fascinated him. He wanted to look it over, so I led him to the cafeteria. As I did so, he freely spoke to anyone who looked his way. Try as I would to divert his attention from the people he attracted, I wasn’t successful. He loved that attention.

After we had a snack in the cafeteria, we found a seat in the station. A man came up and began talking to him. The stranger looked to me like the sort I had seen loitering in bus stations when I traveled during my high school days. I felt uncomfortable and tried to discourage their interaction. I decided to find other seats in the waiting room. Just as I reached to steer my son in that direction, the man handed him a dollar bill. It frightened me. “Danger!” signs danced in my head. “That man might try to kidnap my baby,” I thought. I dragged the child away and we sat down between some other waiting passengers.

Our daughter had her moments, too. Once she was riding in my grocery cart in a military commissary and turned to me. She pointed at a man in the aisle across from us. “See that man, Mommy. I like him…” I was shaking my head all the time, trying to shush her. “He wears glasses like my daddy! I like him!” she continued. The man averted my red-faced glance as I pushed our cart out of his view.