Each day, closer. Inching less than inches, but progressing all the same.
Picked wild and free on the hillsides I roamed as a child, packed, and shipped with love.
Measured, poured, spilled, and felt by tiny hands full of curiosity and mixed with love.
Poked, commented upon, and laughed at, with love.
Mixed, rolled, filled, and baked with love.
Eaten with gusto, feeling the love.
We were watching Iron Giant, for the 40th time. And I’d realized I hadn’t actually ever watched it. Not all of it, anyway.
We’re at the end. The army is attacking the Iron Giant. He’s fighting back. “He’s bad, mama. The Iron Giant’s eyes turn red and he’s very bad.”
Me: Oh, honey. He’s not bad. He’s doing bad things right now, but he’s not bad.
C: Why’s he doing bad things?
M: He’s programmed to do bad things when people try to hurt him. The Iron Giant’s programmed to fight back if people hurt him.
C: Why are they hurting him, mama?
M: They don’t understand him, honey. And sometimes, when people don’t understand things, they get scared. And sometimes when people get scared, they fight.
C: I’m not scared.
M: I know, honey. You’re brave and strong and smart. And someday, when you don’t understand something, you will know you don’t need to be scared just because it’s different. You can ask questions or say hi or just watch.
C: Why are they being so mean, mama? They’re scared?
M: Yes, love. They’re scared because they don’t understand. And they’re fighting because they are scared. But we don’t fight when we don’t understand or when we’re scared.
C: I’m not scared, mama. They don’t need to be scared or fight or not understand. They can say hi.
M: I know, love, I know.
Words are funny things, wiley creatures, slippery and shimmery. One makes time. Surely not. And yet…
Commonly on business trips, I do not make time. My usual work doesn’t stop its demands when the work on site adds its needs to the clamor of the day. And so I retire to my hotel in the evenings with my takeout and my laptop until past my bedtime.
Not this time.
My children, I realized, do not know that a darkened forest tunnel will feel cooler, the air lighter, than the meadow they just exited. They haven’t learned the precise angle that is safe to traverse down a rooted path to a creek bed without tumbling. They don’t know that the quiet one walks, the more one sees.
I have my work cut out for me making more time for the important lessons of childhood.
There’s a whole mess ‘a beans here.
“You made a mess, mama?”
No, honey. A mess is a silly word. It can mean a lot of something.
“You should clean up your bean mess, mama.”
Don’t you worry, little lady. I plan to do just that.
He’s picking flowers, love.
“He’s eating them?”
Yes, he’s eating them.
“Don’t eat flowers, buddee!”
It’s ok to eat those flowers, honey. Would you like one?
“Yes. I’d like one. Ima pick it. Mama, I need to put my flower inside so it doesn’t get cold.”
Inside is colder than outside today. Your flower may like it inside because it’s cooler.
“No, mama. My flower doesn’t like it colder.”
“Mama, my flower needs water! It’s sad! It’s so thirsty!”
It is sad, but it might be too late. We can try anyway. Go ask papa for a cup and get some water.
“Drink, flower. You’re so thirsty, you need to drink.”
So flowers don’t drink from their mouths like we do. Flowers drink from their stems. The stem is the long green part that looks like a noodle.
“My flower drinks like this, with its mouth.”
I don’t know how much your flower likes that, honey. It wants the water to come up the stem, from the bottom.
“Look, mama. It wants the water from its stem. Like this. Ima show you.”
Yes, honey, it does, just like that.