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NellNELL

Nell turned in exasperation to her daughter as she lagged behind her yet again.

“Rosie, will you please stay with me?” she asked, “We can get this done a lot faster if you stop pulling things off of the shelves.”

“What does vanilla bean do?” Rosie asked her, holding up a bottle of vanilla bean pods.

“They make vanilla flavoring. That’s where you get the vanilla taste from in your ice cream,” Nell said.

“Ewwwwwww. Beans!” Rosie said, putting the bottle back, “Mommy, can we get ice cream when we’re done shopping?”

“We can if you stay with me,” Nell said, pushing the stroller with the sleeping baby inside a little faster, “Come on, Rosie, we have a lot of ground to cover yet. Maybe you can help me pick out the cereal and cookies, huh? Bring the cart, sweetie.”

Rosie pushed the cart through the store behind her, and together they finished up the shopping. When they got outside, they transferred the bags of groceries to the red wagon that they’d brought along with them. It was old but still reliable.

“Wagon or stroller?” Nell asked Rosie.

“Stroller!”

“Well, don’t tip your sister out. She finally fell asleep.”

Nell grabbed the wagon handle while Rosie took the stroller, and they began the walk home. They were about halfway there when Nell saw her friend, Holly approaching. Holly was also pushing a stroller, and Holly’s daughter, Annelise ran ahead of her.

“Hey, Holly,” Nell smiled, in greeting.

“Nelly, how goes it?” Holly smiled.

“I’m getting ice cream!” Rosie told Annelise.

“Me, too!” Annelise said.

The two girls began to chat and giggle together.

“I see Robbie’s asleep, too,” Nell said, peering into the stroller, “He’s getting big, isn’t he?”

“He is that,” Holly said, looking into the stroller that Nell was pushing. “He’s almost as big as Violet, and she’s got three months on him.”

“Well, she’s a peanut,” Nell said, “Rosie was bigger at this age.”

The two Moms walked along, chatting and following their daughters towards the ice cream parlor. Ernie greeted them as they all went inside to order.

“Why, it’s my favorite customer!” Ernie winked at Annelise.

“What’s he mean?” Nell asked Holly.

“Annelise spends her allowance on Barney,” Holly said.

“Who?”

“Haven’t you seen the older man who sits in the park?” Holly asked, “He has Alzheimer’s.”

“He’s my friend!” Annelise told Nell.

“Annelise has ‘adopted’ him,” Holly said. “She takes him ice cream”.

“Is it safe?” Nell whispered.

“He’s harmless, Nell,” Holly said, “They’re a really nice family, and they live in the building across from us. I try to talk to his daughter every day. She’s having a rough time of it.”

“Gosh, I can’t imagine how bad that must be,” Nell said.

“It’s hard,” Holly agreed.

Nell turned to Annelise and bent down to give her a hug.

“You are a special kid,” she told her.

“I am?” Annelise laughed.

“Yes,” Nell nodded. “I’m proud of you.”

“We are, too,” Holly smiled.

“What did she do?” Rosie asked.

“She’s nice to an old man who’s feeling lost and confused,” Nell told her daughter.

“It’s easy,” Annelise told Rosie. “Barney makes it easy.”

Nell looked at Holly and shook her head in wonder.

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