Every once in a while, when reminiscing about my childhood, my mom will tell me the story about the balloon.
As the story goes, I had a smile that could stop men in their tracks (not sure what happened to this talent of mine, I could use it nowadays...). One day, while being pulled along in my favorite wagon, I tilted up my head of red hair, smiled as wide as I could, extended my pudgy little hand, and snagged myself a balloon. Or so it has been said.
The passing stranger was putty in my toddler hands, powerless against my smile. He handed over that balloon like it was meant to be mine, all mine.
I was jubilant in my success.
Today in Costco, as I walked slowly alongside my daughter with her pink rain boots and matching pink nose from all the sneezing she has been doing these past few days, I beamed. Forever indebted to just be in her happy presence. She held onto the cart with one little hand until she happened to see the giant robotic dinosaur across the aisle.
We had to stop.
Now, anyone who has ever set foot in a Costco knows that crossing across one of the mongo-sized aisles to the middle section is like waiting for the light to change at a busy downtown intersection. One must proceed with the utmost caution.
Which is why we were standing still, out of the way of the traffic when he approached us.
His hair was frazzled, fuzzy going in all directions a la Albert Einstein. His Green Bay Packers jacket was puffed out over several layers of clothing and he walked briskly, like he was on a mission.
I didn't expect him to stop.
But dead in his tracks, he looked down at Katie (and her pitiful pink nose), complimented her on her "baby," the doll she carries with her everywhere and whom I refer to as my 4th child, and began talking.
He told us that his name was "Ranger Tom," but that he was off-duty, not in his ranger uniform.
He told us that they called him Tom because he "wasn't like all the other tomatoes."
He laughed, smiled more at Katie and her baby and wished our family a blessed Thanksgiving. I smiled back at him and wondered just what prompted him to talk to us. Out of the enormous sea of people in Costco, why did he stop and speak to us?
When I looked down at my daughter, clutching her baby clad only in a diaper, onesie and hat (the doll, not my child), I knew why.
And I smiled a smile that I hadn't in a long time. Perhaps the same one that got me that balloon way back when, for it really is such a wonderful, wonderful world.