#740: Hush and Hustle

January 18th, 2017

A damp gray morning wrapped around the city.

A puffed indigo coat wrapped around the little boy.

His light blue eyes wrapped around the workers in the middle of the street.

He was maybe 2 or 3, swaddled like tamale filling in stocking cap, puffed coat, mittens hanging by strings and the other accoutrements an observant mother makes her kid don before heading outside in January.

She was taking him to the day care a block down, I’m guessing. The mother was tall and swaddled in her own long, brown coat and stocking cap. The little boy had stopped his walk when he saw city workers parked in the middle of Western, the childhood fascination with machinery and men in hardhats dawning mid-walk.

The mother stood maybe 20 feet away, watching her son watch the workers half-descend into one of the manholes whose cover they popped by the little pizza place and ‘L’ station.

She smiled a bit at her enraptured son, waiting for the childlike sense of wonder to subside so she could get to work on time. She made those oversized “Let’s get on with it” gestures to the air, hoping to mime her son into action.

But the boy kept watching the truck and noise, holes in the ground and hardhats.

I didn’t like being a kid. Any nostalgia for childlike wonder or whimsy is replaced by confusion that people kept making me, like, do stuff when all I wanted was to sit in my room and read about dinosaurs.

The little boy, though. The little boy was happy.

It wasn’t envy I felt. We live in a magic world where, if you’re not amazed 20 times a day, you’re visiting the wrong websites. There’s science and art and magic and wonder and history, all around you every moment of every day.

The kid just gets to see that wonder a little more than we do. Everything’s new to him.

The mom noticed me as I neared. She gave that little “What can ya do?” half-smile parents of uncooperative children give strangers. I liked her for that. She seemed sweet.

She walked up to the boy, put her hands around him and cooed that it was time to go. He looked confused — kids are magical, but also dumb as crap — but complied.

It wasn’t that she pushed him away from the magic, whimsy and hustle of the street. She just knew he’s young enough that he’ll see something new and magnificent no matter where he goes.

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You are currently reading #740: Hush and Hustle by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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