Like many neighbors doing their part to urge in spring, my son and I spend our weekend morning transplanting seedlings. Our task is to thin the herd. We approach this work with an unspoken awareness of the terrible, lovely power we possess. We get to decide which of these fragile things have their chance to carry on in larger containers, and which will return to beginnings.
My son with his still unbroken optimism rejects this as a false choice. He scrounges around the kitchen for used water bottles then saws off the tops and drill holes in the bottoms. Bringing them into the dining room where garden debris litters the table and floor, he paws through the dirt for discarded seedlings. We move as many wisps of roots as we can to their more capacious, though still temporary, homes.
Continue reading “The Reach of Our Light”
Sense skates over the damp oil of detangling spray. The film coats my son’s raveled mat. His head is a summer hayfield bleached gold and heavy with dew. At the tips, tendrils going to seed thin and fall away.
Down under all that flower and dust, the stalks twist into themselves. Pile up. Snarl. My fingers burrow to the base of his skull and find the nest there. I begin to brush. Starting at the ends, the gesture is one short stroke. Then another. The brush barks over the ragged rope. Its plastic bristles chatter as if scraped across a guiro’s ridged wooden belly. The boy tolerates this, gripping his nerf gun and re-reading Sunday’s comics.
Continue reading “A Frayed Knot”
He drops his backpack by the door and heads out. Whether the temperature hovers at freezing or rises to a swelter, he and his friends find each other. Sometimes I block the way and steer him back to his violin for a round of scales. The neighborhood kids bang on the door every three minutes, “Is he done yet?” They loop around the breezeway on bikes and scooters. A few come up barely past my knee. A few are already shaving. When he’s free, they all charge off down the hill, hollering ever-changing rules to an ever-evolving game that winds through this labyrinth of stairwells and parking lots.
I shut the door and head to the kitchen to rinse out the lunch containers.
Divorced at 37 and still single at 43, parenting a surly tween, stuck in the suburbs, jammed into a 5-story development abutting a freeway, and working a desk job for a paycheck that barely covers groceries while a white supremacist and a Russian oligarch run the White House.
Continue reading “Plant Anyway”
He slides into bed next to me, his left side far warmer than his right. His chilled skin presses in as he drinks from my heat. “Can you put your arm around me?” He asks.
“Sure, scoot down.”
A shifting. The sheets tangle and we kick ourselves back to softness. Dark lingers. December morning takes her sweet time stretching awake. We wait her out.
“It’s funny how the neck is shaped,” he says in his dreamy murmur.
“It’s like it’s designed exactly right so someone’s arm can fit underneath.”
Continue reading “Burrowing”
He blocks the dryer, wild eyes and a grin. I duck, pump, shoot. His wet boxer shorts whip past his ear and splat against the back wall of the drum.
“Oh man!” He turns and yanks a shirt from the washer tub, untwisting its rope of an arm from a pillowcase. He cuts in front of me and pivots. Past my block, he fakes then scores. “Yes!” Fist in the air.
Continue reading “Director’s Cut”
We are at the midpoint of our nine days together. On the first night, I arranged to pick up my son’s little buddy from down the hall to join us for the free Seldom Scene bluegrass concert at a local park. Bug snarled and fussed while I packed up watermelon and blankets. Then at the show, the banjo twanged, the audience swayed. Bug and his buddy rounded up a half dozen other kids and played soccer in a clearing until the trees twinkled with lightning bugs. He rode home flushed and grinning.
Yesterday morning, when packing up to go to the Spark!Lab at the Smithsonian, Bug fought until he cried. Then on the train, he thrummed with questions and leaned forward in his seat peering out the front window down the dark tracks. At the museum, he spent 2-1/2 solid hours building laser mazes, a sonar rover, a helmet with night vision and echolocation.
Continue reading “Don’t Waste Time Doing Stuff you Hate”
My boy wants me near. I want to be near. The sun is low in the sky. We have come inside.
He taps his pencil against the worksheet. Someone somewhere crafted this shoddy crossword puzzle. Someone believed it to be an adequate stand-in for learning, or at least believed others could be made to believe. This is how we teach the vocabulary of soil. The Rorschach of blocks (dinosaur? metro map) lacks symmetry. It lacks even the pretense of design.
Wood pulp pressed flat extrudes the texture of earth. What’s left is surface and the imagined mines we spell ourselves into digging.
We ask so much of our children. Continue reading “Boxed Blocks Equinox”