I sat at a table in the lobby of the Plaza branch of the KC Library with the intention of creating an Excel spreadsheet of my sad medical history to send to the gods of Infectious Disease at the Mayo Clinic. I dallied, watching people come through the door. A curious pair caught my attention. The grandmother barely hoisted a large re-usable grocery bag filled with books. The little boy wore a small Spider Man backpack. And together they eyed the empty chairs at my table.
I gestured. They did not hesitate. It developed that the boy, Logan, lives a few doors down from a good friend of mine, and not far from my own house. Within a few minutes, my hands fell idle as Logan told me about the books he had read and which they would now return; his favorite Super Heroes (Batman and Spider Man), and a bike trip that he’d taken with his parents in which sometimes he sat in the back of his father’s bike, and sometimes he didn’t, when he was too tired. I gathered a side-car had been involved in the adventure. They stayed the night somewhere exciting.
After he had consumed his yogurt and started on his peanut-butter-and-graham-cracker sandwich, he asked his grandmother if they would be getting new books soon. His grandmother stood and asked if I would watch Logan for a few minutes while she returned the sack of books. I wasn’t sure how Logan’s parents would feel about such an arrangement with a virtual stranger but knowing myself to be trustworthy, I assured her that I would not mind.
Logan continued to chatter but kept his eyes fixed on his Nona, who returned the books and then headed for the ladies’ room. I saw him lift a bit, off his chair, as though to try to discern her whereabouts through the half-wall blocking his view. Suddenly, his attention swiveled to the front doors and he exclaimed, “That looks like Jonah!!” And sure enough it was: A school chum and his mother, who looked quizzically at me and said to Logan, “Who are you here with?” I answered for him: “He’s with his grandmother; she’s returning some books.” I could see her skepticism. I did not blame her.
They reluctantly left Logan to this strange middle-aged lady whom they did not recognize, and Logan began to tell me all the names of Jonah and his mother, his mother and father, and other people in his life. When he identified one as “Angela”, I told him that I had a cousin named Angela and possibly a niece, though I get those second-cousins once removed a bit confused. “What is a niece?” said Logan, and I began to wade through that configuration about the time his grandmother returned, and they packed Logan’s little bag to go off to the children’s section.
I turned back to my dreary task, wondering what books Logan would select, and remembering another five-year-old, long ago, who had a Spider Man backpack of his own. But no grandmother.