On the third night of Summer 2016, around 9:00, I was walking in Charleston, South Carolina, with five of the people I care about most in the world. We had left the house we were renting to go in search of an Icee for the youngest of our group. We’d been on the hunt and on foot for a couple of hours. It was hot.
Somewhere along the way, we all – including our Icee girl – gave up on the idea of finding an Icee. Instead, we walked to the Charleston Battery where we could see Fort Sumter in the distance, we bought palmetto grass roses from a fellow weaving them alongside the wide Battery sidewalk, we admired well-dressed Charlestonians enjoying drinks and dinner on the terrace of the Carolina Yacht Club, we found the street where the protagonist of our favorite Pat Conroy novel lived, and we peeked in windows of grand houses with grander gardens and saw people settling in for the night. By 9:00 it was well past twilight, and we needed the gas lanterns so prevalent in Charleston to augment the nearly full moon and light our way.
As we rounded a turn on Church Street, we heard two boys in the street. We saw them tossing a Frisbee back and forth across the barely two-lane street. The boys appeared to be about the age of the other young lady with us – sister of Icee girl – a very worldly 13 year old. When they saw us, the boy nearest us said, in a lovely drawl, “How are y’all doing tonight?” He said it sweetly and genuinely. We answered, “just fine, thanks”, and continued our ramble. The boy and our 13 year old exchanged glances.
Our encounter with the boys was a brief few seconds, but we all talked about it when we got together back in Sonoma a couple of weeks later. We talked about how enchanted the evening had seemed, how it unfolded so effortlessly, and how being asked how we were doing at just the right moment was like a blessing.
I intend to hold onto that feeling and recall it when I have an opportunity to ask a Sonoma visitor wandering the Plaza some night, “How are you all doing?”