We drove to Royal Oaks yesterday- windows down, listening to The Shins and The National, breathing in air so sweet it demanded I close my eyes to savor it. We played on the giant (but somehow smaller now, since the kids are bigger)- tractor and firetrucks. In the bottom of a large toy boat I peered through a porthole to ask Mae where the ship was sailing, and she said “Mackinac Island.” The ship’s imaginary concession sold M&Ms and Skittles.
A tractor pulled a large wagon and its riders toward the back of the orchard, and we tasted our first bites of the late August crop: Zestar apples, which I kept miscalling “crispers”. Cohen- always wary to step out of his daily regiment of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, bread, and noodles, described his reaction to the taste: “I love these,” he said, “It’s like I’m eating an apple for the first time.” He would come home and help his dad and siblings make an apple pie, and later when he had friends over, he’d declare he “made the apple pie for them.” (A few weeks ago, as he insisted on making cornbread muffins for dinner, he called from the kitchen “Did Bing Crosby sing in White Christmas too?” He’s a 10 year old boy going on 60 year old gentleman and I love him for it.)
This afternoon I watched Mae attempt to “jump” on her scooter. Upon the quick discovery that it’s difficult to get a scooter bigger than you are completely airborne, she completed a two-footed jump on the ground and then lifted the scooter up with her arms. She’d repeat the routine: jump off the ground, lift scooter, jump off the ground, lift scooter. In her mind– she was jumping just like her big brother. And the work it took to complete this task over and over again! That’s what we’re all doing, it seems, piecing together each task as best we can, and ultimately determining for ourselves when to say “That’s it. That’s what I intended, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.” When you look from above and see the whole story, we’re jumping on the sides of our scooters and then lifting them and then taking pride that we jumped. And I actually think the Storyteller finds this delightful.
At school, I have a young man who struggles with a slight stutter in class. The first week of school, I received the most polite e-mail, with a short formal request in which he shared how he stutters and to “please be patient with him.” My heart burst in my chest. Of course. Later that week, as the class circled up for discussion, he was one of the brave few to respond. In front of everyone, patiently sorting his thoughts– patient with us, trusting we’d listen, and so patient with himself, waiting for the words to come. He’s teaching everyone right now, I knew without quite thinking it, “He’s teaching us what it means to be human.” Later on, as kids sat in small groups, he asked a simple question requesting clarity on some instructions I had given. I listened, watching him work through the words, and all I could think was “there’s Jesus.” I struggle to recapture the experience with words– as the word Jesus comes with so much Evangelical and religious baggage (I find it difficult to speak about him– Jesus– with the same brazenness I’ve had in the past.) But it’s the word I have and the story I’ve been given- and it was the only word I could muster. The boy was so perfectly teaching me what is means to be human– which of course, is all we need to be to see the Divine.
Friday night we had friends over- and as I sat telling Sophie “just one more story” I reflected on how our first “First Friday” gathering was likely about six years ago this month. “You were three,” I sad, not quite believing it. Something that seems so brief to me has now been shaped into something that is her life. That’s what is happening now- her childhood. Her struggles, her joys– Eggo waffles in the morning and hastily completed homework sheets, good-bye kisses and midnight tugs on my shoulder in bed– all the scenes coming together, becoming the reel that upon reflection, will simply be one Life. There is something being shaped, something larger than myself, calling the script forward, spinning us ever-increasingly outward, like the tail of galaxy that can never quite catch itself in orbit.
“Mommy!” Cohen just called. He runs upstairs. “What?” I ask. “Just touching base?” He sighs and says “Yeah. I just didn’t know where you were.” I’m here, buddy, I think as I type. Let me always be where I am. I get to be here. So does that boy in my classroom, the trees reaching heavenward in an orchard, even the apples that have fallen and lie decomposing on the ground– even in entropy, simply being themselves. I get to be here. So does my oldest son, and the growing hearts and limbs and spirits that are my kids downstairs. Like Mae, we pretend to jump and discover we’re not really pretending, and we’re patient with ourselves and others along the way. We stare at the sky etched by the branches of trees yearning skyward and see Life for what it is: Blessing.