Thursday, September 14, 2006

And there is also laughter ...

September 14, 2006

The last few days have been punctuated with random acts of kindness, I hesitate to use that phrase because it has become cliché, but there is no better way to describe the string of events that came from just behind or out of the blue and for no apparent reason, to me.

This weekend we were on a train and had forgotten to stamp our ticket, nothing terrible mind you but a potentially costly mistake in Germany. Another passenger heard us talking and offered advice and when the train stopped in the next station she got up, along with her group of traveling companions and searched up and down the tracks for a ticket-stamping machine, but to no avail. At the next stop however a machine was spotted and this time our compatriots and a young German soldier also riding in the car, pointed out the nearby stamper and held the train door open until we could get back in the car. As the journey continued and one or another of the people on the car departed, farewells were exchanged, nothing dramatic mind you, all very German and reserved, a nod of the head, a shy smile, but it felt good.

And yesterday … His Holiness and I spent some quality time near a trolley stop, watching the trains enter and exit, HH encouraging the passengers to walk not run, and pointing out to Papa the color and direction and impressive (to him) details of landscape. He could have easily remained there all afternoon, but eventually the scene began to weary me, the burn of one too many cigarettes in close proximity and other smells and textures common to points of embarkation. I could also see that his eyes were just a little heavy and although he repeatedly denied anything like fatigue, with the promise of an ice cream he finally agreed to moving on and off we went.

As he ripens into the age of three, HH has begun to favor cones over cups for his ice cream but unfortunately he has not yet mastered the fine art of managing the drip. He is also at that age when the inability to control his world with his impressive but still unrefined skill set can have pretty serious repercussions. On the way home I did my best to nurse the melting mess of chocolate in his cone, his tiny licks were no match for yesterday’s heat. As the drips increased in size and frequency so did his frustration and tears, his legs and hands and face were covered in the brown, sugary slime and I had neglected to bring along my supply of wipes (bad Papa). As I was leaning into HH’s stroller to wipe his face with the tail of his shirt, out of the blue a passing stranger offered me one of the napkins he was carrying in his lunch bag, then realizing the extent of the problem, smiled and reached into his bag and gave me his complete stash of napkins. I wrapped the aging ice cream cone in the paper bandages, wiped my son’s face and hands and legs and made it safely home.

At the end of this day an older man stopped us on the street. His Holiness was howling a tune, barely a tune and much more a howl, loud and almost fragrant for it’s brashness. Now it is often the case that the volume of children in public, even in private for that matter, can provoke not just stern looks but actual complaints, both verbal and written and my first thought was that this man might be in the mood to register his disapproval. But quite to the contrary, this white-haired German stopped and leaned slowly down and spoke to my son and thanked him for the song, then rose and smiled at me and said he had once known a child who sang so beautifully and it was good to hear that special music again.

There were more such small events in the last few days, gestures and unexpected displays of gentleness and joy but time prevents me from relating them all this morning, HH is calling me from his room, the bells of the Cathedral are ringing and another day begins here in Cologne.