A little boy travels on the Commuter Train to Boston with me most mornings. He's about 4 years old and hard to miss once he hits the platform. The toy Thomas trains clutched in each hand (usually James and Percy) are as distinctive as his exuberant little jog. He also has a kind of barely contained energy that convinces you that the only reason he doesn't flat out sprint, is the inconvenient office throng crimping his style. He makes up by percolating between people as Dad does an erratic jog to keep up.
The tousled little head caught my eye again today as it bobbed up and down at knee height. Commuters were bundled-up and be-scarved this chilly first-day-of-Spring but the visible parts of many faces wore grins at the sight. This included a young lady who'd suddenly broken into a jog herself, matching the boy's gait exactly for the length of one whole train car. The smiles she darted at him were impish and joyful, alike.
He must have noticed, because there was no more slipping between people: he stayed with her, his side-long glances every few steps infused with serious purpose. The man had a mission, it appeared. My grin had morphed into a burbling laugh at this unconscious display of companionship.
I'm afraid it reached her.
She whipped her head around with an embarrassed look and settled quickly back into a dignified walk. Her heels clicked formally once more on the concrete as she fell back. The little boy looked around for her, unsuccessfully, since he'd pulled ahead by then. He smoothly took to percolating again and I lost sight of him.
Soon, the platform ended and I dove into the warmth of the North Station terminal building. Navigating the cross-crossing lines of swift pedestrian traffic required focus and agility and heralded a shifting of mental gear, like every day. I hurried on towards the office previewing the day ahead: triaging and ranking priorities, running through project statuses and making note of calls and emails to make and return. But an old and familiar thought thrummed through my preoccupation, as I knew it would for the rest of my day, brightening it. The thought was: let no one tell another just how to be happy, for our sources of joy are as varied as they are rich.