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Monday,  July 15 , 2024

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News / Life / Clark County Life

Everybody has a story: Young boy’s age belied his wisdom

By Kathy Vollmer, Bennington neighborhood
Published: June 15, 2024, 6:03am

After moving around almost every year to a different school due to my father’s work, we finally settled in Canby, Ore., for all of my high school years.

Money was tight, so for school clothes I worked in the berry fields the summer before my freshman and sophomore years. However, I got lucky during my sophomore year and landed a job at my hometown pharmacy, stocking shelves and waiting on customers. I continued that job even while I was in school, working weekends and holidays.

Something special happened over the Christmas holiday of 1967, in my junior year. It was a slow afternoon at the store, and in walked a little boy with rumpled strawberry-blond locks of hair underneath a worn baseball cap. Each lock of hair looked as if it was doing battle with the others with no clear winner in sight. The boy didn’t look old enough to be on his own, so I asked if his parents were nearby. He told me his mama was waiting for him in the car outside.

I asked how I could help him. The little guy didn’t look much older than 5, which surprised me as he removed his hat and put out a little chubby hand to shake mine, like a proper gentleman.

He announced his name was Weston. Weston seemed to have some developmental challenges, but he managed to interact with adults with confidence and ease. He was a little boy with a very old soul. His most endearing character trait was that he beamed with emotion and animation when telling me how much he loved each member of his family: his mama and daddy, his baby sister, his grandma and his Aunt Maize. Weston said he wanted to buy Christmas presents for his whole family but had only had $5 to shop for his five special people.

We went looking through the store and I remembered one item that would work for several family members. In the 1960s, a sampler box of five chocolates from Whitman’s Candy Company cost only $1. Weston was so excited and thought his mama and Aunt Maize would love one. But his grammy had something called “diabetish” and couldn’t have many sweets.

Stifling a smile, I led Weston to the cosmetics counter where there was a promotion going for body powder in a pretty blue box. As a Christmas special, the box came with a lovely white handkerchief embroidered with bouquets of blue bachelor buttons. Weston said that would be perfect for his grammy “ ’cause she always carried sweet smelling hankies.”

Twenty minutes later we had a pretty yellow rattle picked out for his baby sister, and a lighter chosen for his daddy’s cigars.

The store policy was to offer free gift wrapping for any item over $10. Weston’s gifts were all small enough that I could wrap them with scraps of Christmas paper from the scrap box. When that was finished, I sent Weston on his way with a huge dimpled smile on his face, a sack full of Christmas gifts and a candy bar for himself, purchased with his change.

After that, every time Weston was in town, he would come into the store to visit with me. I have to say this was the most satisfying friendship I’ve ever had.

Two years later, I heard Weston was seriously ill with meningitis and in the hospital. I was newly married at that time and rushing to join my husband in Nebraska where he was stationed at Strategic Air Command headquarters. The last I heard, Weston would survive the meningitis but likely would have severe brain damage the rest of his life. I grieved for him. But as life would have it, I completely lost track of Weston, although he never left my heart. My worry over his condition left a dark cloud in my soul.

Life went on and we returned from Nebraska around 1985. Until we were able to find an apartment for ourselves, we lived temporarily with my parents in Canby.

Within a week of settling in I made a trip to the pharmacy. The store had the same owners, but they were out for the day. I didn’t recognize anyone else at that time, so I went on to do a little shopping of my own.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. He had beautiful blond curly hair and an enchanting, dimpled smile. He was a young man instead of the little boy I would never forget.

“Miss,” he said, “my name is Weston. May I help you find something?”


Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: neighbors@columbian.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.

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