A blonde curly-haired toddler refused to sit up in his bum bucket bus seat and squirmed away from his mother’s grip.
“Do you want to sit with Daddy?” she tried.
Daddy was next to me with an empty seat in between.
Mom sent the fussy little cherub over, red rover style. Dad pulled him up and he plopped down with bright aqua blue sneakers, kicking the air.
“Are those narwhals?” I asked excitedly, trying to make friends with the new mini monster to my right.
“Yes,” dad confirmed, “and they squeak, so we turned them off.”
“Like, electronically? Or with pressure?”
“Mostly when he jumps,” Dad said. It was not hard to imagine that this one jumped a lot.
Mom handed over a sheet of Christmas stickers and Squeaky Narwhal got to work peeling and sticking them to dad, the seat, the floor, himself, and me.
The first sticker he gave me was a small elf. He stuck it to my work bag and looked up at me for approval.
“Oh, thank you!” I cooed. “Did you know that’s my nickname? Good job!”
He smiled and drew his fingers down around his mouth and chin, stroking an invisible beard.
“He’s saying “Santa,” his father interpreted.
“You’re Santa?” I asked, playfully.
He plucked another circle from the page and stuck it to his nose. A picture of a tiny Santa head in a red cap. He giggled, pleased with himself.
“Smart boy!” I lavished. He played coy and giggled again. Little flirt.
I’m always amazed by how much children hear and understand, and cannot say with words, but can express in their eyes and body language, or in this case, sign language.
He proceeded to affix me with a set of snowflakes in blue, red, and green, a miniature reindeer, a candy cane, and a gingerbread man. I stuck them to the tips of my fingers and waggled them back at him.
“Hi!” he barked and we both laughed.
I peeled them off and lined them up the spine of my travel hairbrush like a Christmas Chakra, the elf at the root. Dad approved of the creative re-purpose.
His parents thanked me as I gathered my bag to leave.
“Of course,” I smiled. Hey—it was entertain and distract, or endure the screaming call of the Squeaky Narwhal, which, once heard, could be accurately described as a duck chainsaw. I ventured that this little person, much like the narwhal, has a high-pitched biological sonar he could fire up on demand, and whether or not you turn his shoes off, he clearly doesn’t thrive in captivity, so we allow him to be his wild, sticker-covered self on the long bus ride home.
“Say bye!” mom entreated. Squeaky Narwhal stuck out his hand and waggled his fingers at me in his bum bucket and shouted “byeeee!”
It’s little bits of holiday magic like this that expand my heartspace ?