John John just finished 3rd grade but was home sick from summer camp today. Not “sick” sick, but, like, taking-antibiotics-for-a-rash sick.
So at the lunch hour, I took him with me to the little deli where John and I have been getting sandwiches on the regular. It’s in a strip mall convenience store run by the cutest couple. I’ve seen their kid there before and she seemed around John John’s age so had no hesitation to take him with me.
We ordered. We waited for our sandwiches to be made. The wife made them and eventually brought them to the counter to ring us up. “He looks just like you!” She commented. He and I were both wearing masks but even with the limited exposure it was clear to her. “Yeah, people tell me all the time that he’s my mini-me.”
She showed him his sandwich to let him know that that one was his. It said “BLT” in sharpie and had a smiley face drawn next to it. The other sandwiches were unmarked, so smiley was special for the kid. So sweet.
Back at the house, we were eating our lunch and telling John about the excursion. “What did you think?” John asked. “It was fine,” John John answered with almost-nine-years-old nonchalance.
“The wife made our sandwiches,” I told John. Then, remembering how nice she had been, I asked John John, “Did you like her?”
“NO!!!” he erupted.
His tone was that saved for only the most onerous of offenses. Like when his honor is being challenged by the accusation of ‘Liar’ from someone of dire import, like his sister.
I was stunned to silence.
“No, I didn’t “like her”!” he emphasized with a touch of sarcasm.
I began to unravel. And as I realized I was unraveling, I caught John’s eye. There was a glint. I lost composure.
The idea that he thought I was asking if he “liked” liked this lovely sandwich lady was just too, too much. I was slain.
But now that I’ve regained composure, the question is, in light of the illumination above, what the hell meaning did he read into that smiley face?!
I can’t ask, I won’t ask. But, I’m not sure if we can go back to that place en famille again…