To have loved and lost in the mall play area

It was a hot summer night, probably. Inside the mall, it was a static 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

A one-year-old boy was carried by his daddy. The boy pointed at the children’s play area, saying, “Uuuuuuh!” into his father’s ear at a volume equal to a toddler’s thrill of discovery.

At this time and place, and in the language of one-year-olds, “Uuuuuuh!” meant “Father, if it so pleases you, I would quite enjoy a visit to the enclosed area in which the children are kept.”

“You want to go to the play area?” the plodding father asked.

The boy pointed again and elaborated. “Üuuuuuh!”

“Üuuuuuh!” sounds different from “Uuuuuuh!” by virtue of its umlaut and the fact that it generally proclaimed more passionately. In this context, “Üuuuuuh!” meant “Yes, please.”

Inside the play area, the little boy crawled on the colorful carpet, navigating around squishy airplanes, trucks, and an incongruous, foam bank vault.

Money slide

A foam bank vault with a money slide. It’s not as fun once you figure out the money’s not real.

The boy was perfectly content picking up nasty germs from the communal carpet when she toddled into his life. She was one of those classy girls, who doesn’t show too much diaper. She had dark eyes to match her wavy hair. She wore a cute, flower pattern dress and pink socks.

He knew there was something special about her the moment she stepped on his hand. He wasn’t a very good walker yet, not like she was. Still, he proudly stood himself up, because the one thing he could do handsomely was balance, as long as he didn’t have to move his feet.

She showed him her best moves, taking three steps forward, and three steps back. The backward stuff was tricky though, and she toppled at the third step. She fell right down on her bottom, but she didn’t cry. He liked that about her, so he grinned at her with both dimples. She smiled back at him, showing off her chubby cheeks.

He’d been standing for a long time; rather than push his luck, he got down upon his knees. They crawled toward one another. She reached out for him, pressing her thumb against his nose. He giggled. She laughed too. It was a moment filled with potential.

Ah, what might have been!

Her parents collected her. Her father carried her out into the mall crowd. The boy watched them in stunned silence. He had to run after her, except he didn’t know how to run yet. He did what he could. He crawled. He crawled after her as fast as his two knees, and associated hands, could go. He crawled right out the entrance to the play land.

Five feet beyond the entrance, his daddy picked him up. The boy searched the distance over his father’s shoulder, reaching out his hand after her. “Aaaaaaaa!” he called out in desperation.

“Aaaaaaaa!” defies direct interpretation. It could mean “Pretty girl!” Perhaps it was a proper noun, like “Isabella!” Though worlds removed from Stanley Kowalski, the anguish in the boy’s voice made his plea sound most like the name: “Stella!”

The exact meaning is lost, and so was she – lost in the turning of the mall wing.

magic wheel

Oh, play land wheel of fortune, tell me, will I ever see her again?”

The sad little boy was taken home, to be cheered by playing with his cat. When the cat ran away, the boy called after it: “Aaaaaaaa!”

We take our Stellas where we find them.

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16 comments on “To have loved and lost in the mall play area

  1. Heather says:

    It is those first loves that are hard to forget. 🙂

  2. See!!!!!! You can write romance! LOL LOVED IT!

  3. Did you get him some ice cream to help his little heart to heal?

  4. kelloggs77 says:

    This was great! And I giggled at the part where he starts to crawl out of the play area, as it reminded me of the time when my son toddled out into the mall so quickly that he was one step from getting on the escalator before my husband grabbed him. They need gates on those things!

  5. stacybuckeye says:

    Poor boy! Boys love those play areas, moms only see the germs 🙂

  6. I like that her dad saw potential trouble in your son and took her to safety. At least that’s how I read it.

  7. amanda says:

    This is a great piece, well done!

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