Gideon ran on ahead of us, jumping between the different colored floor tiles as if he were Indiana Jones in a collapsing temple. He sprinted and then hopped, sprinted and then hopped, sprinted, touched the edge of the meat counter and started his way back. His sister Lydia followed close behind using her own method of jumping the gaps. She spun like a top, sending her long hair and skirt flying around her like hula hoops and halos. She bounced over the gaps like a ballerina, prancing on the tips of her toes and pulling her arms in and out to control her rate of spin. She twirled and then hopped, twirled and hopped, twirled an impossibly long time and stopped, facing back towards us, and charged after her brother.
Their voices echoed through the nearly empty grocery store. It was late. We were on our way home from an adventure in the city. We had simply stopped for some ice cream treats for the drive home.
Clara shook her head at her brother and sister and looked up at me. “They shouldn’t be doing that. They are going to get in trouble.”
“Nah,” I replied quietly. “They are okay. And it’s probably good for them to get the energy out.”
She agreed and took my hand, shuffling her feet as she walked along beside me. “I noticed that the floor of the aisle back there had been polished,” she said matter of factly.
“Yeah. That one with the dog food and the one before it, but none of the rest of these. I guess they are cleaning them at night and they started on that far end of the store and haven’t worked their way to this aisle yet.”
“Hmm,” I pondered this.
“Or maybe these aisles just have more popular items in them so they get dirty faster. Do you think maybe they clean them every night?”
“That could be,” I knew what she was doing, and I gently squeezed her hand. “Clara, do you know one of the many things I like about you?”
She smiled up at me as we continued walking slowly towards the freezer section.
“I like that you and I can walk through the grocery store and have a real grown-up conversation. And I like that you look at things and think about them in deep interesting ways.”
“Oh… yeah.” she shrugged. “I guess I’m growing up.”
“Yes, but also,” I grinned as she shuffled her feet again. “I also like that while you are making these deep insightful observations you are secretly only stepping on brown tiles and purposely avoiding the white ones when you think I’m not paying attention.”
She stared at the floor seeming slightly embarrassed at having been found out. “Well,” she said with a smirk, “I am only ten.” and she let go of my hand and lunged over another gap. Then she waited for me on the other side.
“Yes,” I agreed with this fact, stepping easily across the gap myself. “You are.”
Later on, I glance into the rearview mirror at the dark backseat of the car, and I saw Clara, holding her chocolate covered raspberry Haagen-Daz ice cream bar in one hand (she had asked for the third from a package that her mother and I had picked out), and she leaned sideways and took a long, closed eyes, satisfying suck from her sister’s store brand lemon popsicle (it had come in a pack of eighteen). She opened her eyes and glanced slowly back and forth between the two ice cream treats.
I nodded understanding and looked back at the road in front of me.