My wife and I are back in Lehighton, the night before the Bauer family reunion - my mom's side. Some relatives have arrived already, like my uncle Dave and aunt Kathy from Richmond. My cousin Sarah and her husband, Allen, in from Cleveland, have also arrived.
So, along with my parents, the eight of us trekked off to the west for dinner at local fave Leiby's - a place I've been to countless times through the years.
We sat in the dining room and witnessed one of the most innocently hilarious incidents I can remember.
We were seated nearest to the queue, where folks waited for a seat of their own. We were in the corner of the dining area, boxed in by a pair of families.
To my right was an extended family of about six. Grandparents, parents and a young boy of about 4 who wore a No. 48 Jimmie Johnson Shamu T-shirt. (Shamu was on the hood of Johnson's car at the recent Pepsi 400 at Daytona.) The shirt looked well worn, replete with stains from an earlier day and from the just-completed dinner.
Closer to my direct line of sight was another family of about the same size, with a few more kids and no grandparents. Among them was an adorable girl of about 4, wearing a cute sun dress.
Somehow - before I really started paying attention - the young boy and young girl got to talking in a manner consistent with how 4-year olds talk. Still, it was pretty clear the lad was smitten.
He displayed more manners than one could reasonably expect from someone four times his age. He spoke and always held his hands behind his back, perhaps thinking it was a more dignified look. Perhaps it wasn't so dignified, but at the very least, it displayed an enormous amount of courteousness.
He stood there chatting, when suddenly she was up and away to the other side of the table to talk with other family members. But he did not budge. He stood there, waiting for her return, hands still firmly behind his back.
His only movement was a slight upturn in the corner of his mouth; for an adult, picture the brief moment between thinking of a solution and finding the right way to say it.
His solution may have only been to stand there and wait for her return.
I believe - though I'm uncertain - that he did eventually venture after her to talk to her again. But by then, both parties were ready to leave.
The girls' family was up first and started heading for the exit past our table. The boys' family was just then starting to rise from their chairs, but the boy was long gone, chasing after the girl.
The boys' mother called his name - which now escapes me - and realized he was a lost cause. She started walking toward the exit and noticed we had been watching her son's love adventure.
"He's gonna try for a phone number," she said as she hurried past. We all chuckled knowingly.
The rest of the family soon followed. Grandpa walked by too.
"Heck," he said, "I think he's going for a ring size."
There's a smitten boy in dreamland somewhere around here. (I mentioned to my wife that I'd bet when he sees his boys on Monday, he'll be like, "Girls!? Ewwwwww! They're icky!" It's tough to lose face with your buddies, but deep inside we know he knows better.)
Childhood innocence is a theme for many a novel, to the point that one can say it and not bat an eye. But to see it so openly and so plainly was a real joy - something that could have only come from a young paramour.
Hey little buddy: Hope you land a play date with her real soon.