Peanut-butter kiss

She couldn't have been happier with her unexpected get-well gift.

On a solo trip across country, I unexpectedly ended up in a hospital in northern California. I was discharged on a beautiful May Sunday and went to sit in the courtyard in the center of the building while I got my bearings. I was staying at a friend's A-frame cabin in the woods, but he was away.

Suddenly, three boys burst through the glass doors into the courtyard. They ran and leapt and hollered. Then, they came over to talk to me. They were two 11-year-old cousins and a 4-year-old who were visiting their grandmother. They chatted away about their lives and wanted to know all about me.

They were all ears listening to my replies. No, I had no children of my own. No, I didn't live in this area of the country. And I confessed that I had been afraid to be in the hospital and so far from home and friends.

Without a thought, one of the 11-year-olds piped up, "But now you don't have to be afraid anymore; now you have us."

They went back to their running, jumping, and playing. Then they'd circle back and sit with me and chat for a bit before they ran off again. Although I didn't want to leave the warmth of the sun or the sweetness of the boys, I was feeling stronger. It was time to go.

But as I bid them goodbye and started to leave, the 4-year-old held out his stocky little arms as far as he could to block me.

As I looked down at him questioningly, he said, "Don't I get a kiss before you go?"

I bent to pick up the glorious, giggling child and caught the distinct scent of peanut butter.

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