Monday, January 21, 2008
The Three Cocoa Birthday
My little baby boy turned seven today. I still can't believe it. We started the day by ice skating in the park. It was crisp and cold and beautiful out. We practically had the rink to ourselves. As we walked to the bus stop, we decided that we had time for a hot cocoa. We placed our order and warmed our hands inside the cafe while we waited. As the server handed us our drinks, I mentioned that it was Charley's birthday. Within seconds, Charley was whimpering behind his cup. He'd asked for no whipped cream (shocking, I know) and this one most definitely had whipped cream. His whimper turned to sobs and I was about to scoop out the offending cream with a spoon, when a kind woman who had been standing behind us knelt beside him.
"Why, we can't have such crying. It's your birthday after all," she smiled at Charley, winked at me, and took the cup from his hands. "How about a brand new hot cocoa?" Before I could protest, she had leaned over the counter and ordered a whole new drink for Charley. He was astounded. I glanced at the barista to make sure they weren't completely annoyed. He smiled knowingly and waved me off. This woman was obviously a regular. "What kind of books do you like, Charley?" Our new friend asked. "You do like books don't you?" Charley nodded his head enthusiastically. "Well, thank goodness for that. You see, Charley, I own a bookstore. I'd like to invite you to come on over to my store. Let's pick out some special birthday books for the birthday boy."
Normally, I would have intervened. I would have insisted that another drink was unnecessary. I may have even checked my watch and noticed that we didn't have time to stop by the book shop because the bus was due any minute. But something about this woman left me speechless. She was warm, kind, firm, and well, almost Mary Poppins-like. Next thing I knew, we were parading down the street, warm drinks in hand, behind Charley's new fairy godmother. We turned down an alley, halfway down the block. She stopped in front of an old antique store I'd passed many times before.
"We're not quite open yet, Charley. But I'd like to give you the early bird special. Come on in." She unlocked the door and warm air rushed toward us. The store was absolutely magical. Vintage postards and matchbooks lined the tops of glass cases filled with antique shoes and costume jewelry. Janey and Macy were thrilled with the ancient trinkets and toys that filled the shelves. The owner led us to the book shelves and began sorting through titles. She and Charley discussed which ones he should bring home, while the girls and I nosed around the store.
"Ooppsie," Charley stammered.
I turned around recluctantly. Hot cocoa was dripping down the shelves. Our hostess hardly looked up.
"Ah, well. These things happen, you know," she explained. "No need to ruin a birthday, now is there? But someone's going to need another cocoa, aren't they?" Charley beamed. This truly was his lucky day.
As I wiped the sticky cocoa off the books, Janey was sent back to the cafe with strict instructions from the store owner to bring back yet a third hot cocoa for Prince Charley. I was amazed. Somehow this woman had a softspot for Charley, and on his birthday! How could I interfere?
By the time the mess was cleaned up and Janey returned, she and Charley had picked out a stack of books for him to take home. The woman placed the books in a bag and took Charley's cup from his hands. As she secured the plastic lid with heavy duty packing tape, she smiled, "We want to be sure this one makes it all the way home, now don't we?"
As we left the shop and said our good-byes, the woman crouched down to Charley and met him at eye level. "Read lots of books. Lots and lots of books." And so we did.