A Message for Boys

Letter From Baltimore

The steamy morning reminded the congregation that Baltimore is on the shore and was once considered part of the South. The heat and the elderly substitute for the vacationing rector made the service informal and cozy, but if I had known the small church didn't have air conditioning, I might have chosen some other Sunday to visit. The regulars knew how to deal with the heat: The women wore sleeveless tops and dresses; as for the men, I was wearing fully half the congregation's allotment of ties. I was the only one to try one of the little spade-shaped wicker fans tucked in with the prayer book and hymnal. The regulars didn't bother, knowing that expending the required energy would just make them more miserable.

The woman seated across the aisle from me had her toddler dressed for the weather, in a seersucker jumper with short legs. The little boy had a cheerful, angelic face surrounded by thick, dark blonde curls. His jumper, bare feet, and luxurious curls made me wonder if his mother had hoped for a girl.

During my medical training, they told me the name for what this little boy was doing, but I had forgotten it long ago. Still, the idea came back to me as he acted out an intense, heartfelt little chapter from a textbook on child development. He bumped into his mother, making sure he got some acknowledgment—a smile, a hug, a quick whispered game of peek-a-boo—then he was off. The point of the game...

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