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Kathy Bradley - Some things you will always remember
Kathy Bradley

   Some conversations you never forget.
       "You're fired." "We're pregnant!" "It's cancer."
       The smell of the carpet, the color of the curtains, the sound of a passing train become Pavlov's bell and, thereafter, never just a smell or color or sound, but the conversation itself.
       Earlier this week I had one of those conversations and Huddle House waffles will never taste the same.
       It happened like this: It has become a tradition for Aden, the 7-year-old philosopher, and me to have breakfast at the Huddle House when he comes to Georgia to visit. On Monday morning we were sitting across the booth from each other, our waffles puddled with maple syrup, when I noticed him staring at his chocolate milk carton.
       "What's so interesting?" I asked.
       "I'm checking the calories and stuff," he said without looking up.
       OK. Was I reading milk cartons in first grade?
       "What are you liking best about school?"
       He stared off into the distance for a moment, his eyes squinted and his chin stuck out. "Math. I like all the math. I like all the stuff I'm learning."
        I reached over the table to cut up the big slice of country ham he'd ordered.
       "So, what do you think is the most important thing for a kid to learn?" I asked, sensing that I was about to hear something consequential.
       "Reading. That's the most important. But," and he paused, fork stuck in the air like a conductor's baton, "I don't like fairy tales."
       I didn't interrupt to ask him why. This is a boy who brandishes light sabers. This is a boy who thinks it's funny that I am afraid of tiny little mice. This is a boy.
       "I don't like fairy tales because they always have a happy ending. It's not like that."
       I felt my shoulders sink and curl forward. I stared into the guileless and unscarred face staring back at me and waiting to see if I would speak truth.
       I took a deep breath. "You're right. It's not always like that."
       He propped one elbow on the table and leaned his head against his hand. "Did you know Grandma?"
       Yes. I knew his great-grandmother.
       "It was a very sad day when she died."
       A simple declarative sentence. A 7-year-old's version of reality. I couldn't have said it better myself.
       There is a reason we cling to our children. They are our connection to what is real. They love without sorrow or guilt or regret. They remind us of who we wanted to be before we learned better.
       My waffles had pecans in them. The sausage patties were too salty. The chocolate milk carton was brown and white. And the sage across the table from me wore a camouflage jacket and slip-on sneakers. I will never forget.

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