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How the Other Half Lives

I’m back from a week-long hiatus. We had an out-of-town guest and spent some time in the Smokies off the grid. I now return to my regular programming.

Unless things take a bad turn in a few years, Simon is on track to be better looking than either of his parents. (No offense, honey.) He’s also chatty like his mother, and like many only children is particularly chatty with adults. The end result of this is that Simon seeks and garners more than his fair share of adult attention and praise. It’s always been this way, and it seems to increase with age.

When the attention comes from a teacher or coach, I chalk it up to Simon being very coachable and an eager student. But sometimes the attention comes from more casual encounters. Sometimes it’s the result of plain old good looks and charm. Like this past weekend in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Matt, our friend Susan, Simon and I dropped by the Sugarland Visitor Center to pick up a map and get Simon a tee. He chatted away with the sales clerk who helped find a shirt his size and then again with the cashier, who got an earful about his stay in the park and his upcoming birthday.They smiled and fussed over him, which I’m used to by now, and then we all said our goodbyes and headed for the car.

Just as we were unlocking our doors and getting inside, a park employee ran after us calling Simon’s name. Now I’m pretty used to be chased down by clerks and waiters. Usually it’s because I’ve left my purse, jacket, recent purchase, or boxed-up leftovers behind in the store or restaurant. But this? This time our pursuer was the cashier from the park store, a nice lady who had taken the minute or so we lingered at a display just outside the store to draw Simon a picture of a bear holding a Happy Birthday Simon sign.

Stuff like this never happens/happened to me, whereas it happens regularly to Simon. I looked at Susan and shook my head in dismay. She knew exactly what I was thinking, looked right back at me, and said with a laugh, “Welcome to life as one of the beautiful people.” I guess so, or at least what passes for it among the kindergarten set. And I have to admit, much as the attention amuses me, that there’s a discomfiting element to it too. Will this kind of attention turn him into an entitled brat? Will he go into a tailspin when it ends? I don’t know. Partly because I don’t know anything for sure about the future, but mostly because it’s uncharted territory for me.

In this, as in so many areas, Simon is exposing me to a childhood unlike my own. And kind of like when you get bumped up to first class on a plane or stay in swank hotels on the corporate dime, going back to my regular sphere of existence might prove to be painful.




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