The sights and the sounds that night were overwhelming. It was finally December and it seemed to me that the whole world was out to celebrate the holiday month. Every lobby had a pianist and a tree to the ceiling, and every other room swelled with the usual Christmas hits. It all hung in the air so thickly that every breath I drew was filled with season's greetings.
As the night got darker and colder, the tourists were no worse for the wear--nearly everyone was carrying one of those disposable coffee cups, which were undoubtedly loaded up with hot chocolate and whipped cream (this is Salt Lake City after all). The six of us weaved through the crowds, stopping occasionally to take a picture or point at something, and despite the fat slices of pizza in all of our bellies, those disposable cups started to look more and more appealing. We moved away from the brightly lit Temple Square, across the street to the lush decor and warmth of the City Creek mall. The conversation was as light as the shops around us and I was happy to be wandering through the city with our old friends.
We walked with purpose now, only stopping anytime the younger member of our little group noticed the fish in the creek the mall was named for, eventually landing in a booth with four hot chocolates, four tired adults, one excited three year old, and a happy baby. I don't remember the conversation topics, but I remember the warm hot chocolate sliding down my throat and the pleasant feelings running through my head. We laughed and talked and sighed and lamented the short length of our time together.
As we walked back to the parking lot, a small Batman took my hand and held it tight. The shops and lights passed in a bright yellow blur and I was elated even as the young hero yanked me in different directions. Somehow we were suddenly at the cars and Batman easily scaled the seats before sitting down and helping me buckle him securely into place. As we all said our goodbyes, my tiny hero placed his hands on either side of my face and started pulling on me. I was a little confused up until he planted a firm, slightly slobbery, three-year-old's kiss on my upper lip and waved at me, beaming, as I walked away.