This piece was published in the Pasadena Star-News on October 27, 2019.
The collision was inevitable, considering where we were. Two fleet-footed children were running fast and hard and smacked together, head-on.
“Damn,” I said to myself. I walked quickly over to my eight-year-old granddaughter and the little boy she collided with. He was crying. My granddaughter was shocked but unhurt. The boy looked to be about four-years-old. He wasn’t bleeding so I relaxed a little.
We were in one of those kiddie-climbing gyms that are very popular these days. They are childhood fantasyland – a place to climb, slide, jump, and scream in delight. It is a shock to the senses for adults, but the payoff is that parents can bring their laptop and work while their children play - if they can tolerate the noise level.
The screams of joy and abandon rise up to the three-story ceiling where the kids climb up stairways covered in padding in bright primary colors that have netting on both sides. Then they then slide down on one of a variety of slides. Or they can stay up top and pummel the kids below with multi-colored soft foam balls. It is perfectly safe fun but no one can prevent collisions of the kind my granddaughter and the other child got into.
Both of us comforted the boy, but he continued to cry. He directed us to his daddy and we both expressed regret to him and my granddaughter apologized profusely. It wasn’t all her fault, but she felt bad because she was so much bigger than the boy.
I was greatly relieved when the boy’s father remained calm, listened to both of us and understood that no harm was meant to his son. My granddaughter still felt terrible so we sat together for a while until she was ready to get up and run around again.
About ten minutes later the boy and his father approached my granddaughter and I joined them. The father said the boy was sorry too and the look on his little face told me that he and his dad had had a talk. The boy accepted responsibility for his part in the collision and apologized too, thus relieving my granddaughter of some guilt.
But the drama was not over. My granddaughter had a piece of costume jewelry, a pendant about the size of a quarter with a greenish stone. It was very special to her and I suggested that she take it off when playing but she insisted on wearing it and I didn’t argue.
She came up to me with tears in her eyes and said the pendant was missing. “Damn,” I said to myself. We looked and looked and asked the attendants if it had been turned in. One told me that a lot of children just keep items like that.
My granddaughter had made a friend, who helped look, as did her grandpa and me. But there was no way either my husband or I could climb up those padded steps that were designed for little feet and supple bodies, not the creaky bodies of grandparents who are approaching age seventy.
Then I saw the father of the boy who had collided with my granddaughter, entering the climbing cage, looking for the pendant. He was at least forty years younger than us and I was so grateful that he could see our predicament and was moved to help.
Someone actually turned in the pendant and my granddaughter was delighted. It seems practically everyone in the place was looking for it and someone found it in the bouncy house. We had found the proverbial needle in a haystack.
The boy’s father and I guided two children through a mishap with mutual acceptance of responsibility and civility. I was grateful to a man who could have been unpleasant about my granddaughter’s collision with his son, but taught him to be kind instead. Then he went above and beyond to help us out when he saw we needed it.
So why is this story appearing on the OP/ED page of this newspaper? In this time of deep dissension, raging insensitivity and incivility, it is worth mentioning. We Americans must remind ourselves that these encounters happen a million times a day throughout our country. This story is a pleasant reminder of what a great country we live in, filled with people of good will and warm hearts, who teach their children well.
Kathleen Vallee Stein