“Maybe next time, Henry,” I said again and again, loudly. Occasionally, he picked up a single piece of candy that had rolled unassumingly toward his feet, escaping your watchful eye and exaggerated wingspan.
“Make sure you share with the little boy,” the young mother on my other side told her girls a few times when they managed the same feat. “Sharing is very important.” She and I made desperate eye contact. Were you for real?
Your own son, probably a year or two older than Henry, scrounged for a lollipop and offered it to us.
“That’s nice of you, sweetie,” I said in a quieter tone. “But we have enough.”
The funny thing is we ended up next to you at the parade because you reached out when you saw us walking aimlessly from our car to the vague hoard in the distance. You smiled and told us where the parade started and ended, suggested the prime spot. We chatted on and off as we waited for it begin. We really lucked out with the weather today. It’s not too cold at all. Every few minutes, you reported the time. Twelve more minutes. Nine minutes.
It was almost like you couldn’t listen. Seven minutes. You were too focused on the parade.
I’m ashamed to say I left the parade and told my husband and girlfriends about you. I was so frustrated. I think I used the words “bat shit crazy” at one point. But all week, I’ve been replaying the parade in my head. And it’s not that simple, is it, mama? The intensity, the hunger, the fight.
Maybe your mother never took you to parades where marching bands play and toned teenagers in sequined leotards make magic happen with their batons and easy smiles, where people in fabulous costumes ride atop trucks adorned with crepe paper flowers and throw gobs of candy. Candy! What childhood version of heaven doesn’t include generous showers of candy?
Maybe your mother did take you, and maybe something really dark and scarring happened. Or maybe she died the next day. Maybe you did in any of the tiny, unjust ways we do as kids. Or maybe your own child who didn’t seem that fussed one way or the other actually has a quiet and unpredictable form of autism and is the victim of vigorous bullying, and you are in constant attack mode, conditioned to defend. Or maybe you want very badly to participate in your neighborhood’s Trick or Treat but you have $12.81 in your bank account and you can’t afford candy. Or maybe you just really, really love candy. Like so much more than I can imagine. Maybe you just got utterly, innocently absorbed in something you truly love. Can I fault you? You have to take what you want in this life.
Judgment is easy. Kindness is hard. Sharing isn’t a lesson we are all taught in the same way.