I arrived in Atlanta from Boston around 11:30 am.
Immediately, I noticed how the social temperature was different in the South as compared to the North. Anybody who serves food or greets you actually takes more than a few moments to be polite, courteous, kind, and respectful, something most definitely lacking anywhere I’ve lived. Most interestingly to me, when people in the South realize that I’m from Boston, they immediately have an impression of what Northerners are like. Sadly, their observations probably do have some basis. Not that Northerners are blatantly and intentionally rude, no, no. It is just that what is considered common courtesy varies in large degrees as one travels up and down the Mississippi. I normally wouldn’t label myself as a northerner, but I suppose it’s true: I’ve never lived in the South.I began to quickly realize in my initial response of wonderment and impatience at a slower pace of life that however I’d been brought up, it sure wasn’t like the upbringing of these folks I was meeting. This airport layover was my first time to the “South,” except to Florida a couple of times when I was a young’un, and I could already sense a difference.
Is Florida considered the South?
I sat down at a gate for my connecting flight to rescue my strawberries from their bright, strawberry-juiced paper towel and the browning plight of it’s accompanying banana. I had two hours to spare, approximately, so I took out a book and began to read between bites of breakfast part #2/snack. I left a few seats between myself and the nearest group of fellow passengers, and settled down.
As I paused here and there to underline some phrase of interest, I began to be conscious of a small shape hovering just to the left of my knees. I glanced up to find a cheery little African-American fellow, who had achieved about 15 months of age thus far, and who was both looking and waving intently at me, grinning broadly all the while. He was sporting a t-shirt and little pants and little shoes, and additionally, a little white bib with red trim and red lettering informing the world at Hartfield-Jackson International Airport of his name: Grandma Magnet.
“Hi!!!!! HEY! Hi!!!!!”
I broke into a smile and waved back at him, returning his kind and sociable greeting.
I returned to reading shortly thereafter, but I was soon interrupted by a persistent stream of “HIIIIIII!!!!!”s complete with beaming, pearly white accents. Someone sure wanted my undivided and full attention!
I looked up again to find Grandma Magnet waving at me and struggling against the arms of who I assume to be his grandfather, and trying desperately to get out of their encirclement to reach, surprise of surprises, me. Eventually grandpa’s grip loosened and the little guy came bounding out from within his arms and arrived at my lap, smiling and waving happily.
Grandpa observed the situation and chuckled, with a trace of embarrassment for the forwardness of his grandson.
Grandma Magnet then proceeded to carry on a lengthy conversation in G.M. Speak (Grandma Magnet Speak) with me; not just babbling, but he appeared to genuinely be trying to explain something to me as he waved his arms and held my gaze without breaking it for a couple of minutes. Once he was through, he hopped down and went to visit a couple of women in their late 50s nearby.
As he approached them, they cooed and ooed and awwwwed and it became clear that they, unlike me, were in fact genuine grandmas. They each told Grandma Magnet how they had little grandsons like him back in such-and-such a place and smiling, told the other passengers waiting what a “cute and sweet little man” Grandma Magnet was.
Grandma Magnet made his rounds as each grandma commented in like manner, spending just a moment at each one, and so I returned to attend to my book again.
Yet, as soon as three grandmas were visited, Grandma Magnet was back at my lap, calling out “HIIIII!” and gazing intently at my face.
Grandpa tried to grab little Grandma Magnet but he was intent on staying with me, and I heard grandpa say in a low voice, “Well, look at you here, little guy, you’re just going for the pretty young ladies here. You sure know how to find them. Now, come on. Come and sit down over here. Oh? You don’t want to come sit by me? I see.”
I chuckled to myself, thinking of all the funny instances when other people’s toddlers in public places – on the street, at the grocery store, on the bus, here at the airport – either reach out to me and try to come say hello, or else stare at me until I smile.
Grandma Magnet was clearly not one to be reckoned with, while on a cheering mission.
Apparently, he took a fancy to me and the three grandmas. The three grandmas, I could understand: after all, he is Grandma Magnet. I know throughout the years I’ve been jokingly referred to as a grandma or mama for all the worrying I do for others, but in this case I didn’t know whether to be happy or offended, however, that the precious 15 month old, Grandma Magnet, had also taken a liking to me 🙂
I think I’ll settle for being happy: who says Northern Bostonians can’t be friends with Southern Grandma Magnets? An excellent choice, all around.