It was a good day. Becca was riding in my car. She sat in the back seat, wearing a beautiful yellow Sunday dress. Brand new. I was driving. Becca is 11. She is blind. I was in charge of her today.
God help us all.
The stereo was blasting. We were listening to “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant. A song so loud it affects the migratory patterns of certain varieties of geese. Our music was so loud, people were looking at us when we pulled up to stoplights.
Meantime, Becca was dancing in the backseat. Clapping her hands.
The next song was “Footloose.” She howled with delight. Then came “Who Let the Dogs Out,” by the Baha Men. She screamed along with the lyrics.
It was a sunny day. Our windows were rolled down. A cop car pulled alongside us.
The cop took one look at the child in the backseat, gyrating and flinging her hair around like Janis Joplin on a bender, and he smiled.
We pulled into a Chick-Fil-A parking lot. We got out. We walked across the parking lot. I noticed people staring at us.
This was my first time chaperoning a blind child in public solo, I wasn’t used to the reactions.
Becca used her white cane to navigate the busy area, I held her hand tightly and flagged back traffic.
Amazingly, some motorists were not courteous. Some were downright upset. Some honked horns. A few drivers were upset that we were moving so slowly.
One man threw his hands up behind his steering wheel and told us to hurry the cussword up. Everything inside me wanted to introduce this man to the Alabama State Bird.
When we got inside, Becca ordered chicken nuggets. Macaroni and cheese. Chick-Fil-A sauce. A complimentary toy.
The cashier smiled warmly. “That’s a very beautiful dress, honey.”
“Thank you,” said Becca. “It’s new. What kind of toy comes with the kids meal?”
“It’s a sticker board.”
We sat at a table. Becca asked me to feed her so she wouldn’t spill food on her new dress.
“You want me to feed you?”
So I sat beside her.
Whereupon I dipped her nuggets in sauce, held a hand beneath her chin, and placed the deep-fried chicken into her mouth.
“Don’t spill it,” said Becca.
Then came the mac and cheese. I did my best. But it was evident, I had never fed a child macaroni before. I am a childless man. I know nothing about kids.
I spilled mac and cheese on her new dress.
“You have really bad aim,” said Becca, wiping her dress with a napkin.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Can you just hold the spoon still?”
“Don’t spill it this time.”
But I did.
There were people staring at us. I have never been stared at like this before.
“Omygosh,” said Becca. “Are you even paying attention?”
I apologized profusely.
And then I spilled more mac and cheese.
“What the world!” she remarked.
When we finished, I brushed excess crumbs off Becca’s new dress and apologized over and again. I felt terrible.
We walked across the parking lot, back to the car. I held her hand tightly, and warned her about approaching curbs.
Becca said I didn’t have to hold her hand so tightly. She wasn’t going to run away.
More people honked at us. More people told us to hurry up. I made eye contact with one impatient woman in a blue Ford SUV. I used my eyes to imply a very bad word at this woman.
When I got Becca buckled into the back seat, I felt like a complete failure. I told her I was sorry, and I hoped I hadn’t ruined her clothes.
I buckled her seatbelt. “I’m sorry I got food on your new dress, Becca.”
Then, Becca Jane Butler kissed my forehead. She touched my face with her little warm hand and felt the curves of my nose and my cheeks.
“It’s okay,” she said. “You’ll learn.”
As I say, it was a very good day.