It was surprisingly quiet in the grocery store for a Sunday afternoon. Generally I despise and loathe those big Sunday grocery trips so I was pleasantly surprised at the peacefulness.
I was able to let Brian's invisible tether grow a little and I felt my own grip on the handle of the cart loosen.
Brian was dancing around the aisles as he usually does, trying to tap shelves or make sure his toes touch each square on the floor.
At one point an older woman giggled as they did a dance together as she tried to reach the pepperoni behind him.
Yes, she giggled. I laughed back and said, "He loves to dance in the grocery store". She smiled at him and went along her way.
A minute later he jumped across the aisle and placed his hands on a two-year-old's cheeks while giving her his biggest smile.
I ran across the aisle, hoping she wouldn't burst out in tears from this big boy that appeared out of nowhere and was touching her.
Her grandparents looked quizzically at me as I loudly asked him, "Did you want to say hi to the little girl?"
I held him there, yet keeping a safe distance so he wouldn't squeeze her cheeks again, and said, "You can say hi to her." He jumped, flapped, and said "Hi baby!!".
I looked up at the grandparents and quickly said, "I'm so sorry. He has autism and doesn't understand the social graces that come easily to the rest of us. And he just loves 'babies'."
At this point I was making it into a big scene, using my loud teacher-voice. Several people had turned and watched the scene.
But everyone smiled. The grandparents just nodded and urged their granddaughter to say "Hi" back to him (she still looked like she was shell-shocked, hopefully that wore off). And we went off, with him smiling and repeating "baby, baby, baby" over and over again.
The situation made me smile. No, he shouldn't be going around squeezing toddler's cheeks but everyone was so kind and accepting that it gave me hope.
Don't worry, I did give him the job of pushing the cart to avoid any more instances of touching strangers.