While he listens, he also pokes his fingers in the irrigation control valve covers, smacks the metal light poles, points at ants and says, “ANT.” — and so on.
His favorite vantage is from atop the time capsule, which, to his balloon-crazed liking, has a hot air balloon on it. (Fun fact: There’s a picture from 1978 in that capsule of “balloon baby” Andrew Avon, Henry’s hot air balloon pilot uncle.)
We momentarily take Henry away from the crowd to look at Emily Thomson’s balloon mural in the LARAC window when he’s especially noisy.
It’s not really that he’s loud, though. He’s just a friendly guy.
I never know how much to hover. Rather than “helicopter parenting,” my tendency is to let him run and explore if he’s not in danger. But I struggle to gauge how much his friendliness creeps people out. Sometimes he’ll just walk up to someone and smile at them. I’m sure it’s disconcerting.
He generates a lot of sunny expressions from strangers, though. And I have friends who email begging for Henry pictures when they’re having a rough day.
Sometimes it feels like a public service to bring him around. It’s like walking around with a magic wand you can point at people to make them smile.
But not everyone’s into cute. Some people don’t like kids, or want to be left alone. So I fret. We don’t aim to annoy.
One recent Monday, Henry got away from us to sneak up on an unsuspecting audience member and delightedly stuck his water bottle in the cup holder of her folding chair. It was an adorable gesture. She smiled. We were relieved.
He then scanned the park, which was chock-full of folding chairs, each with a cup holder, and realized the magnitude of his discovery. We saw the light go on over his head and looked at each other.
Do we intervene? Are people just trying to relax and immerse themselves in the music? Or will he bring sunshine and rainbows to everyone in the park if we let him work his sweet magic?
During our hesitation, he hit at least seven chairs with his water bottle. Seven smiles. Two nice ladies recognized him from The Chronicle and called him by name.
Then another few cup-holders, and subsequent smiles. A couple let him pet their dogs.
We stopped him there, though, not wanting to push our luck.
Thank goodness you can still hear the band from over by that heaven-sent balloon mural.
This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle on July 25, 2014.