Walking through a co-worker's office today in an area that also serves as a sort of hallway/greeting place for several other nearby offices, I encountered another colleague I don't see very often, because he works on the other side of campus. It's that week when the students have gone, teachers are turning in their grades, and people you wish you saw more often are walking through the hallways offering holiday greetings and wishing you a happy break, which begins soon. Sitting in a chair nearby was a little boy I immediately decided must be his son. Whom I haven't seen in a few years. He's one of those children of that indiscriminate age in the single digits. Seven? Eight? Nine? Hard to say! You know, though...no longer in diapers but hasn't hit puberty yet, either. I tend to prefer kids in that age range. I've often observed them to be very direct and, I don't know, basic, I guess.
So I greeted his dad and then turned back to the boy who was now looking at me. "Wow!" I said, "It's been a really long time!" Expressionless he replied, "Who are you?" I told him, asked his name, he replied, confirming my suspicions, and we both paused, each waiting to see what came next.
Looking down at my half-empty coffee mug, I gestured, holding it out a bit, and said, "I'd offer you some coffee but this is cold and I think I got the last cup." He shrugged, responding, "That's okay. I don't like coffee!" This assertion took me back to when I, too, wouldn't drink the stuff. "But you looooove the smell...don'cha?" He grinned, "Yes!!!" That's when I remembered the hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows we had left over from last night's work event. So I looked at his dad and said, "If you wouldn't mind, he can have some hot chocolate!" (No, I wouldn't have asked such a question in front of the child if they'd been mere strangers; with this colleague, though, we know each other well enough that I felt comfortable with the familiarity.) "He can have anything he wants," said the dad...confirming my suspicions.
"C'mon," I said to my new best friend, and we walked across the hall to the storage room where the leftovers had been put. I found the appropriate hot-beverage-cup, the mix, and a spoon, and we proceeded down to the kitchen. Our conversation was natural and comfortable; he's out of school a few days earlier than he would have been had he not switched schools this year. What a coup! We both agreed on that one.
His dad joined us just about the time his winter beverage was ready, and sat down across a table from his son, now taking his first sip. Thanking me, he looked at the boy and asked how it was. "Great!" Subtle pause, then, "I like her!" Prolly the best part of my day.
Thinking about it later, I pondered how long it'll be before he hits that other age. You know: that age when they stop saying, directly, how they feel about you and you have to start trying to read their minds. Hopefully a while...