Grandpa Learns About Good Getups

"Poppy?" she says.

"Yes, Katie."

"Can I ask you something?"

"Sure." Katie, our granddaughter, is a curious but polite four-year-old who is visiting for a month. We are preparing to walk the dog.

"Is that your only outfit?"

I chuckle, somewhat taken aback. "Well," I say. "I guess you could call it my summer one." Actually, I have three pairs of these shorts and a good many white (and blue) button-down shirts, but I don't bother to explain that. For it is still only one outfit in triplicate.

An "outfit," in Katie's mind, is something suitable for a specific occasion - very specific sometimes, as she proves by deciding, just after we've managed to get two-year-old Andrew's sneakers on him, that today is a green day, not a pale-blue one; so she rushes upstairs to change. In a minute she is back, and we are off - she in matching light- and medium-green shorts and T-shirt (plus green sneakers and white socks), me in a white shirt and red shorts. Andrew, in no proper outfit at all, is still in his purple-spotted pajamas.

During our walk, and later, I ponder the question she has raised. "Outfit. Clothes worn together: a fall outfit," my dictionary says. Do I have a fall outfit? I suppose I do. Substitute long pants for shorts. A winter one? Corduroy for khaki (with a flannel shirt).

That afternoon, Katie and I go to a dock nearby to purchase some lobsters. Katie, who's standing next to me on the float, is twitchy, her nose crinkled up in response to the smelly bait, the wet dock, the crab shells, and the low tide. Basil, the owner, puts four lobsters into an old salt bag, which he gives to me. He wipes his hands on his camouflage fatigues, removes his Day-Glo orange hat, and mops his brow with a large red bandanna that was stuffed into the breast pocket of his green work shirt.

"Some hot," he says, then tramps off to his office to make change while Katie and I stand there holding hands. She looks up at me, not quite sure whether to speak what's on her mind. I smile at her, reassuringly.

"That man's boots," she whispers, "are icky."

I pause for a moment, considering what to say. "Those are his lobster boots," I whisper back. "They're part of his outfit."

Basil returns, boots squelching. She looks up at me. Her face brightens.

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