Alan darted into the kitchen where the adults lingered, visiting over the remains of a meal shared. He slipped between the refrigerator and the wall, popping his pixie face back out long enough to say with a grin, "Count, Mama! We're playing hide and seek!"
He had come from the next room where he and Dale had gone to play, so I fully expected to soon see Dale tromping through looking for his hiding brother. It would take me a few minutes to understand that Alan had other plans.
Again the grin appeared from behind the fridge. "Count, Mama!"
Obediently I began to count from my seat at the table. "1.... 2... 3..." The visiting continued as we waited for Dale to come find Alan.
"4.... 5.... 6....7........Alan? Is Dale hiding too?"
The small voice behind the refrigerator answered, "No."
"What is Dale doing?"
It finally dawned on all of us at the table that "we're playing hide and seek" meant "me & Mama", not "me and Dale".
I resumed counting, this time all the way to 12, ending with a promising, "Ready or not, here I come!", getting up and rather noisily searching about the kitchen.
Lo and behold, what did I find next to the fridge but a precious, wee boy, squoonched up into the tiniest ball he can make himself, way back against the wall, with his eyes squeezed tightly shut.
I reached in for the tickle and the expected "boo!", and was rewarded with giggles and the joy of being found.
I laughed, we all did, at the hilarity, the cuteness, and the innocence of the game. On the inside my heart swelled yet again with deep, deep love, the kind that almost hurts. Love for childhood, for simple joys, and for this boy, this precious gift of a boy.
His grinning face disappeared behind another corner, and the game began anew.
"Ok! Count again!"
And we do. We count, we seek, we laugh, we love.