He used to put his finger over the peep hole when mother tried to look through it. That was how we always knew it was him. And when she would open the door, we would act surprised and he would pretend to surprise us. It was a tradition every time he visited and a game I learned from watching my older brothers and sisters. At first he didn't notice me as much, swarmed by all those bigger than me. They would surround him and he would put his hands above his head and proclaim in a deep but kind voice, "Don't shoot!" And they never did. They would stick their hands in his coat pockets and find all kinds of rewards. Circus peanuts and chocolate bars and tiny boxes of Cracker Jack. Anything you could imagine. It was like he had a tiny circus in his pockets.
Amazed by the sight and overwhelmed by the older ones, I would sit in the shadow of the hallway and peep out of the corner, watching as they tickled him to get him to give up the candy and induced all kinds of torture. Finally, when they had each conquered him and claimed their prizes, they'd scurry off, back to their games and things would get quiet again. He would pat his pockets like nothing was there and then look at me and say "Oh boy. Whatever are we going to do about you? I'm fresh out!"
Disappointed but embarrassed at making him feel bad, I would just shake my head and urge him to go onto his business with mother with a feeble smile held between my cheeks. Then he would check as if nobody was looking, and let out a low whistle, signaling me. I'd race over and nearly bounce off his knees with my haste. He'd squat down to my level and smile, opening the inside of his quote and looking down at his chest pocket pointingly, a place none of them had been tall enough to check. I'd reach in with timid but nimble fingers and pull out a red lollipop. The only red lollipop he brought. Just for me. He would smile and his eyes would twinkle and he would stand up, patting my head. As he walked away he would say "Our little secret."
Then every afternoon after he came, I would proudly hold my red lollipop and savor it, never biting into it but making it last because he'd brought it just for me. Special. Now sometimes I think back to those times and him- the first person who had ever made me feel special, the first one to ever pick me out of a crowd. Like I said, I didn't know him as long as the others and I didn't know his life story but I do know he wasn't the robber or pirate captain or indian he was in all of their games. He was the kind old man with a red lollipop in his jacket just for me.