There is a bench near the checkout lanes at our local grocery store. Maddie and Katie like to sit on the bench and wait while I pay for our groceries each week. The bench is far enough away from the registers that they feel independent, yet close enough that I can still see them. They’ll sit and wait for me to pay, and then I’ll chugga chugga choo choo towards them calling “All aboard!” Suddenly, the bench turns into a train station and I am the conductor. Maddie and Katie hop on my train and off we go to load the groceries in the car.
This weekend it was just Katie and I at the grocery store. Maddie had stayed home with Dad to help with a home improvement project. Like always, when we approached the checkout lanes Katie asked, “Mommy, can I go sit on the bench?”
I kept a close eye on Katie as I paid for the groceries and waited for the bagger to finish. I noticed an elderly man sitting on the bench wearing a blue cap emboldened with NAVY across the front. Katie plopped down next to him, her little legs swinging in the empty space below the bench.
I handed the cashier my coupons, my eyes still on Katie and the man. They were talking. Katie’s face held a mischievous smile and the man seemed to be laughing. Katie, typically shy among strangers, was animated and expressive. The man seemed amused. After a few minutes, I thanked the bagger and walked towards the bench. What could this three year old girl with a purple coat have to say to an old veteran sitting on a grocery store bench?
I guess I will never know because as I approached the bench, Katie stood and grabbed my hand. “Bye bye,” she said to the man with a wave of her fingers.
“Good-bye, young lady,” he answered, giving me a smile.
As the cold air blew against our faces in the parking lot, I wanted to ask Katie about her conversation, but I didn’t. For some reason, I felt like it belonged to Katie. To Katie and the man on the bench.