On a walk to the train this morning, we heard the sound of barking behind and from above. Charlie stopped stamping chunks of snow and ice flat and turned his eyes backwards, just as a garbage trunk grunted past us with a large brown dog hanging out the right-side window, right at Charlie.
"Daddy!" Charlie started to call but the dog, being in a moving vehicle, was already down the street, its nose and wagging tongue still pointing at us. Two men wearing neon-bright chartreuse jackets clung to the back of the truck. Charlie looked, set his shoulders, and kept on walking, and stomping on snow as if to say, No big deal. I can handle that.
The unexpected is never easy to contend with----be it the first day of a one-week vacation from school, a drive around the Newark Airport because Charlie and I got there before my parents' plane landed (and I forgot to check the arrival time before we got in the car), the aftereffects of eating a sesame-encrusted bean-paste-filled deep fried dessert brought all the way from Oakland's Chinatown. Charlie was quiet, with a shy smile, on seeing my parents appear at the airport gate and dug immediately into their suitcases and---on finding several Ziplocs of Chinese food---asked Gong Gong, as he calls my dad, "Open!"
Jien duy were my favorite as a child. "I want, I want," Charlie said as Gong Gong put down the plate.
Later in the shower, Charlie started screaming loudly and ran out, and rolled and cried on our bed. Jim surmised it was the sound of a stomachache. I brought Charlie his blanket and ball and helped him into his pajamas and remembered my own childhood indulgences of too much jien duy. Charlie spread his blanket under him and wrapped his left hand in its folds and called the name of one of the aides in his school classroom. More time passed and he got up and lay down on his own bed, and smiled.
Before we left for the airport, Charlie had carefully packed his calendar and Goodnight Moon, which he had taken down from the shelf to read with his ABA therapist in the afternoon, into his school backpack. With this upon his back and his snowboots on his feet, he looked ready to travel the world over and---being well provisioned---to meet the unexpected of a week off from school.
Or a dog in the passenger seat.