My good friends Pam and Darren will soon move to London. He has lived in the city for 10 years, she for around 8. The three of us have been involved in outreach and friendship building to street kids for around seven years, although right now I am on hiatus with school requirements vying fiendishly for my time. Since I just returned from a three week voyage and Pam is one of my closest friends, I am squeezing as much time as I can get with them. Recent examples include:roasting marshmallows over a gas burning stove, glasses of the fruitiest Spatlese Riesling close at hand or last night’s Settlers of Catan tournament with other Inner Changers and potluck of vegetarian yumminess (read: bulger with raisins and peanuts as well as my attempt to make the Burma Superstar “Tea Leaf Salad” that Mariah remarked was like “fireworks for the mouth”). Good times.
So when Darren sent out an email encouraging friends that want to spend time with their kids to step forward now, it didn’t take me very long to respond. I had this vision in my head of taking their little ones to see the movie “Ratatouille” and Darren responded that Jesse would probably really enjoy an excursion of this variety.
After church, we all settled on the playground, eating a picnic lunch, listening to the kids run and squeal, enjoying the aberration of summer weather in the summer. Jesse came over a few times and asked if it was time to go yet. A few bites later I had finished my salad and Darren snapped the car seat into my backseat. Jesse climbed in, saying he had never been in my car before, that he liked it very much. As we drove away from the church, he said that they would miss me when they were in London. He is a precocious youngster. You never know what will come out of his mouth. After the movie finished, I mentioned that Remy, the rat had jumped onto a “bateaux mouche” and Jesse asked if I could take him on one. I responded that if we are ever in Paris, sure. He was very much on his best behavior, holding onto my hand as we walked into the elevator and not letting go of it until we were seated in the dimly lit theater. I had a feeling the munchies might ensue, so I packed four chocolate chip meringue cookies for each of us. Sure enough, he said in his cute Jesse way, “I’m so hungry” mischevous grin breaking out at the last words.
We crunched on meringues and watched the beginning of the movie. He only asked twice why I had packed just four cookies… Toward the end of the movie, he stretched, saying how tired he was. We ventured out into the Yerba Buena Gardens to look at the hordes of people enjoying free public theatre. Walking back to the car, we talked about our favorite characters and if God cares for the rats. On the way home, he was quiet, staring into space and so I chose to give in to his fatigue, by letting him chill in the back, turning on music and singing along. Before long, I saw his head slant down and two blocks away from his house, those eyes shut.
What a perfectly lovely afternoon: sunshine and slight breeze, holding the hand of a little boy who trusted me, feeling such a weight of responsibility for this child who’s part Pam/part Darren, but mostly Jesse. Perhaps next weekend I will attempt to make a Ratatouille from scratch in celebration of love and lifelong friendships of friends scattered like salt around the world.