Jake's ride home from school is almost an hour, which seems like a long time, but it wouldn't be much shorter if I drove him myself. He's always been a good passenger, and it's not a bad ride through the eight or ten cities they travel. I imagine he leans his head against the window and looks at the rolling hills. Maybe he naps sometimes, but he's always loved road trips, and Descartes and I both like to drive, so perhaps it's just another way for us to know he's really our kid.
I keep asking him about Halloween. I know he practiced at school today, walking to the office in preparation of going door-to-door on Monday with a decorated bag, and someone holding his hand. I know from the journal we pass between classroom and home that he carried a push-talk button that said "Trick-or-treat." I ask him if he held the button, or did his aide carry it for him. He smiles and squints his eyes.
He just keeps laughing when I ask him what he wants his costume to be.--the costume I need to come up with in just a few days. He's probably laughing because I keep asking him open-ended questions, like he is just going to answer me. As if today he will decide, or have the ability to say clearly, "I don't want to be Luke Skywalker, I want to be Vader." It's happened before, a whole sentence clear and direct. He saves his words I think; saves them for what he thinks is really important. For every gazillion words I spill out of my mouth, he has three or four words. I guess it's not so surprising that most people look forward to his.
I let him linger in the sunlight that shimmers across his face, filtered by the leaves just enough to make me resist putting on sunblock, lest I ruin the moment. He continues his survey of our path, gathering stones and leaves and dropping them in some order I don't understand. Jake is quiet and moves a little closer to me where I have sat down and begun pulling sour grass out by the roots. I love when oxalis fills the yard in fall, but since everyone else thinks it's a weed, part of me feels compelled to rip each flower out. Then I contemplate how often I balance what I want to do against what others think I should do, and wonder how it influences my parenting and my children. I overheard Lucy saying, "You shouldn't judge a book by its cover." the other day, so I know she's hearing me a little.
The sun slides down faster than I expect it too, or else we've been outside longer than I had intended. Being with Jake in his moments is so peaceful. Aside from the crouched-down position he takes to do it, I can see how comforting it might be to sift through the pebbles and let them fall over the garden border. I love to plant bulbs and flowers, and have fond memories of my childhood at this time of year preparing the flower beds to receive more bulbs; anticipating what spring would bring.
Time is different in a garden. Sometimes it feels like I've been pulling weeds for hours, but it can be pleasantly surprising to see how much I have accomplished when no one was watching over me, when I wasn't keeping score, when I couldn't see the hands on the clock from where I stood. I can't hurry the bulbs. I can't will more perfect breezy afternoons to sit with my son on the sidewalk. I can water all I want, but sometimes I forget what I've planted where on this hard-to-manage slope in our front yard. Some years the garden is awhirl with color, and filled with fruits and vegetables. And sometimes our yard is dry, barren, waiting for the day when Descartes and I are both available at the same time to fix the sprinkler system; because some jobs just cannot be done alone.
I can see the peach fuzz on Jake's cheek when he turns towards the sun, his eyes closed as he soaks in those afternoon rays. I wonder what kind of man he will be when he's older, and what will be his career? his calling? Will he be an archaeologist? A forest ranger? A geophysicist, surveying cores of the earth?
He dribbles dirt and pebbles in a little pile next to my hand, then hops up and runs the rest of the way to our front door; it's as if he knew I was jumping too far ahead. I take a quick breath and run after him.. let's figure out Monday. The rest of the days will still be there when it's time.
a version of this post was the editor's pick today at OpenSalon.com