Sam was old and we were four. As long as it wasn’t raining, or snowing, or too cold, he and his wife sat on one of the benches outside of the apartment complex where we all lived, leaning on his cane, breathing air that seemed a little fresher then, and watching people come and go. We never knew his last name. To us, he was just Sam, and his wife was Mrs. Sam. To him, we were Babba and Sussy, best friends.
Because we spent almost as much time outside near that bench as Sam and Mrs. Sam spent on it, we got used to having him around when we played. It was a kind of comfort, I think, knowing that he would be there while our mothers and fathers were elsewhere, even though we never exchanged more than quick greetings.
Then, one day, while we were watching a trail of ants, he suddenly stood up and said. “Babba, Sussy, Come here. I have a story to tell you.”
At first, we approached warily, but, with more urging, got close enough to hear him whisper, “Vonce I caught a fish…”
He let the end of the word evaporate, as all great storytellers do, knowing we would never budge from his sides without hearing the rest, knowing he was going to make us beg for it.
“And?” We said.
“And,” he slowly straightened, “ it vas thiiiiiiiiiiiis big….” He pushed us far far away from him, farther than we thought he could push anyone, and looked at us, as we giggled, bewildered. “Vye did you move? Come back.”
After that, whenever we saw Sam, we asked him to tell us about the fish. It didn't matter that we knew what was coming, or that he was getting too old to push us very far. We let ourselves be drawn in, we anticipated the surprise; and every time it came, we were delighted.
Causes Barbara Froman Supports
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Lawyers for the Creative Arts