Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nathaniel

The other day I had lunch out and the bus boy kept smiling at me. Finally I remembered him -- I used to visit his family when I did parenting coaching. His son, Nathaniel, was just 15 months when I first met him. He was a tall, sturdy little guy with black hair to his shoulder blades and snapping brown eyes who chugged around the apartment in his diaper, exploring and laughing and helping any adult who would allow it. We made friends the first time I visited, and stayed friends from then on.

I was sent in to help families after the social worker had been there. Social workers in Juneau don't necessarily dress formally, but they do wear darker colors when they do investigations, with brief cases and hard shoes. When they leave, having examined every facet of a family's life and given a judgment to the parents that can be quite threatening, the parents are often frightened and traumatized. I was supposed to come in after this, develop trust with the family, and begin to move their behavior in a positive direction. So, I found that applying the principles of "Dress for Success" to my target audience, wearing coordinated denim pants suits and a Smokey Bear watch and carring a denim bag with a Tweetie Bird applique pocket and an umbrella with a duck head helped put people at their ease. And the kids loved it. Little ones would stand on my lap every week when I came and examine my watch and bag, talking to me about Smokey and Tweetie. That quieted their parents' fears even more.

So, I was used to Nathaniel clambering up the minute I sat down. For a couple of weeks he would say, "brella, brella" and I would answer, "Yes, Nathaniel, umbrella." One day, he climbed up, put his little arms around my neck, leaned forward so I could feel his soft baby breath on my cheek, and whispered, "umbrella, umbrella, umbrella."

And I knew, any man who wanted to win my heart was going to have to compete with a little Tlingit boy with laughing eyes and a soft voice.

6 comments:

gawilli said...

This is a beautiful story.

One day, he climbed up, put his little arms around my neck, leaned forward so I could feel his soft baby breath on my cheek, and whispered, "umbrella, umbrella, umbrella."

This passage gave me the chills!

Anonymous said...

What a precious time in your life and how smart you were to set the stage.

Tabor

kenju said...

I don't imagine he has any competition at all!

Maya's Granny said...

Gawilli,
It gave me the chills when it happened.

Tabor,
It was a very precious time indeed.

Kenju,
Never has had any competition, never will.

Joy Des Jardins said...

J, this story was so touching and beautiful. Thank you.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I miss you mom. I cherish this umbrella still.