We went out for dinner tonight, just the four of us, our little family, but we didn’t eat alone. Outside the restaurant, a small girl with sunkissed blond ringlets waited for us to arrive. Curls bouncing and eyes laughing, she ran up to us as we walked over to the doors, saying, “Are you going to dinner? You can go in here. It’s open.” Confused at first, and pausing to take a picture (I’ll tell you why tomorrow), we were polite but distant.
But as we continued inside, she ushered us in and offered the boys crayons. (“This place has the best crayons,” she said proudly.) And we understood why in a few minutes, as we learned that she was the daughter of the owner and the waitstaff, granddaughter of the cook, and her grandmother and aunt were there keeping an eye on her and baby brother while their parents worked to keep the place open. The crayons were her own, you see, and she came over to offer them to us along with her own coloring book.
Widget was entranced.
She asked to join us, and we of course said yes, let’s pull up a chair for you, and you kids can color together until the food arrives. We did, and she did, and they colored away, sharing adjacient pages and trading crayons, whispering now and again to each other while WonderDaddy and I talked about the day’s events and helped Little Bear figure out the straw.
She was a delightful dinner guest, leaving unobtrusively with her mama when the food arrived and giving us a bit of space to get everyone fed. When we were finished eating, she came back again and asked to play hide and seek. Widget eagerly agreed, and they were off and running. Well, not running. It was a restaurant, of course, and neither her mother nor I would let them misbehave. But they did scamper, and spin, and twirl, and the childish laughter floating over the empty tables was unmistakable. My little Widget, child who has been though so very much this year, was laughing and bouncing with glee with this newfound friend.
Her name is Emily, and although her mama expressed regret and gratitude for her behavior and our acceptance, I told her that it was I who was grateful, for it was wonderful to see the children play and hear them laugh.