Red Shoes at My Kitchen Door

Cameron poses for a Senior picture before a Belle Isle greenhouse 
When nine-year-old Cameron followed his mother into my kitchen with book in hand, my heart leapt.  And when the boy parked his little red shoes on the rug, I knew two remarkable people had just walked into my life.
     Not only had I gained Laurie, a new farm hand who proved to be an excellent gardener and tough as nails, she brought along her well-mannered son who loved literature. That summer morning in 2009, of all the unfilled desires of my heart, Cam and I talked about the Harry Potter series.  
     “Who’s your favorite character?” I asked.
     He smiled. “Hagrid.”
     Mind, because my ninth year concluded in 1959 as the happiest a child could ever imagine, it is my intent to lavish each nine-year-old I encounter with the loving-kindness of my grandmother—the Hagrid of my childhood. 
     I recall Granny’s firm supervision and tenderness, her voice calling me inside from play for dinner, then again as another summer night fell upon the Appalachians. I taste the crumbled leftover cornbread in a glass of buttermilk for a bedtime snack. I hear her prayer.
     With this memory, I said to Cam, “You know, the ninth year is the best of your life.”
     He looked above his glasses and smiled as only nine-year-old Cam could do.     
     While his mother worked the lavender fields with my staff and me, Cam sat under the pavilion and read one book after another. During lunch, the highlight of my day, we’d talk about the storyline and cast. I wish I’d taken notes of Cam’s insights.  
     My home knows that season of 2009 as the summer of Cameron’s shoes at the kitchen door. They’d change from time to time with Cam’s mercurial sense of style.
     That summer a child sat amongst us and read—built his vocabulary and sense of adventure. In turn, we built a lasting friendship.
     In November 2012, when our daughter Kelly, son-in-law Steve, and adopted grandson Amulen arrived at Detroit Metro Airport from Uganda, Laurie had boxes of Cam’s winter clothes waiting for our eigth-year-old boy.
     To welcome Amu to America, Cam and Scott, his father, celebrated our grandson’s homecoming with a host of guests at Seven Ponds Nature Center, Cam’s home away from home.
     It was his sister’s wedding reception several years ago where I found Cam in a tux, all debonair. “So, what are you reading now?”
     He offered a grin and shrugged. “I’m not.”
     “Everybody needs a reading break.”
     Yesterday I walked into the company of Cam’s family and friends and joined his high school graduation party. We embraced as we always do when we meet again. This time I had to stand on my toes to hug Cam’s neck.
     “What are your plans?” I asked.
     “I’m going to Grand Valley.”
     “What are you studying?”
     “Let’s have lunch before you go,” I said.
     “I’d like that.”
     Dear Reader, I intend to lavish eighteen-year-old Cam with the loving-kindness of my grandmother. I could’ve used a second helping before I left for college.