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An encounter at the park on a quiet morning.

We took the wagon to the park this morning.  I packed two mason jars filled with homemade strawberry banana smoothies, and we set off through the neighborhood.  Today is a beautiful day; although it is windy, warm beams of sunlight would sometimes rest upon our skin when we found a particularly open area outside.  Once we truly started playing, we hardly needed our winter jackets.  The park was quiet, and for a while we were the only two there (except for the man who sometimes uses the equipment to exercise, and a few passersby).  Then suddenly, a moon-faced young boy–about six or seven years old–peered playfully over the rails atop the playground equipment.  Piper walked toward him, holding a stick she had taken interest in as some sort offering.  He came down and accepted without words, and the two began to play silently for the next several minutes.  For a while they parted, and the boy continued to play on his own.  A man walked down the path with a large orange dog.  We exchanged humble good-mornings before he addressed the boy in what sounded to my ears like fluent German.  I felt delighted inside; for one, I now knew why the boy was so quiet, and for another, we seemed to be having a very special adventure this morning, meeting by chance these friends from far away.  When I had the chance, I asked the man if he was from Germany.  To my surprise, the man emphatically told me that he was full-blooded American.  I thought for a moment I was having delusions, until he explained that the little boy was in his care this morning, and was part of his extended family.  I asked what language he was speaking earlier, and he answered, “Deutsch — German.”  I bent down a bit and looked at the boy standing patiently by his guardian and said, in quite horrible accent, “Guten tag!” and tried a “Wie geht’s?”, though the shy boy did not reply.  The man then asked me how I came to know any German, and I told him that I have some German ancestry, but I also used to work as a tutor in college, where I met many students from other countries.  We spoke as we pet the family’s large orange dog, and it gave us sloppy kisses with his long black tongue.  I was surprised to learn that the man shared my experience as a student of literature.  The little boy then showed the man a fresh cut on his knee, and they were about to go home.  I offered a quiet goodbye in German, and the little boy softly replied, “Auf wiedersehen!”  It felt like magic to form this bridge of communication, to acknowledge this child who seemed interested in us but did not know the words to say to speak with us.  The boy wanted to play a bit longer after that, so the man settled down into a park bench.  I wanted Piper to run along and play with this little boy, but just as we were about to walk over to the other playground equipment, the older man called out “So who is your favorite author?”  That question is always loaded, and I sometimes imagine people asking me, and wonder at what I will say in response.  I told him about my love for Thoreau’s Walden, and that I had recently read The Count of Monte Cristo, but admitted that I had been reading a lot of contemporary novels lately.  He mentioned that he enjoyed Robert Frost, and then said confidently, “I have a book that you should read.”  “What’s the title?” I asked, and he shouted from across the park “All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr”  “Foer?  Like Jonathan Safran Foer?”  He disregarded my rambling, and repeated again — this time gesturing toward the sky — “All the Light We Cannot See.”  Then he and the little boy left, without another goodbye.  Isn’t this all such a curious incident?  This brief encounter seems to have run deeper than a lot of interactions of a similar nature that I encounter from day to day, and so I wanted to share it.  Auf wiedersehen!

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2 thoughts on “An encounter at the park on a quiet morning.

  1. What a wonderful story! Life is filled with these synchronicities, and it gives you goose bumps sometimes, doesn’t it?

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