I’d like to pause that moment in time. That moment when the little boy – pale skin flushed red in the autumn chill, brown hair tousled in his scurrying, big eyes bright with wonder of the world – still looked at things without judgment.
“My dog’s not a puppy,” he said with a smile. “He’s three!” The word rolled off his thick tongue like tree, and he took great effort to convince three chubby fingers to remain upright as he trapped his pinky with his thumb. He couldn’t have been more than four, himself. He looked at me, and began to rattle on about his dog. His mother, eyes wide with something akin to horror – – or was it disgust? – – gently urged him away. His father tugged the dog’s leash and quickly continued along the path away from my group. The couple spoke to one another in hushed whispers as they hustled further and further still.
Moments prior to our seconds-long encounter along the trail, the boy’s parents had seen our little entourage ahead of them. Three of my children, my mother, our tiny Grigio on his leash, and me were slowly making our way back to the parking lot. When they saw us, the man halted, jerking his happily trotting dog as he tried to avert our paths crossing by returning the way they’d just come.
“It’s okay,” mom had said happily, as she scooped Grigio into her arms. “I’ll pick him up.” They hesitated – that deer in the headlights pause – before slowly, begrudgingly pressing forward.
Our children – both sets – smiled happily as we drew closer, oblivious to the tension. It’s amazing, really, how young people are blissfully oblivious to prejudices of their parents.
A lump had formed in my throat, but I returned the boy’s ready smile. “Oh, three? He looks so young,” I responded, eying the puppy-faced dog as the boy patted the caramel-colored fur on its head. Stone-faced and silent, the parents continued their now-purposeful escape away from us.
As he was quickly led away, he turned to walk backwards and continued to chatter, raising his voice to be heard over the increasing distance. “Well, bye!” He finally shouted, turning to catch up with a fast paced trot that matched his parents fleeing.
“I can’t believe they were going to skip the trails just because we were coming along the same path,” my mother said in a hush meant only for me. “Why deprive themselves of the experience? Clearly their dog didn’t mind ours. He didn’t even notice.”
“I think they minded us, not Grigio.” I said what she chose to purposely ignore.
“Yeah, I know.”