5:54 in the morning and it is still dark. The way to know that summer is ending is to feel the dark fold up on each side of the day. And soon, we know it the way the birds know it, this season will turn right over to the next. Time has settled into a pattern movement of waking, feeding, playing, loving. I’ve been saying the not-new-revelation all summer. This summer- the one where we have spent over ten nights in tents and at least thirty hours in canoes- it is going fast.
And everybody is old now. It is the summer of no-naps, buckle yourself, hatchets in the woods and please put away your bow and arrow. Get out of the water. No really, it is time to get out of the water. Please eat up this watermelon in one sitting. Don’t forget your sister at the mailbox.
Their little heads at my kitchen counter all lined up like the peas in the pod we pick from our garden.
If I could mark this summer with a sign in the grass it would be named The Summer of Much Conversation. Joey, now six and feeling even older, wants to know everything. Because it became clear early on that I did not know nearly as much as his expectations, he has settled to know, ‘a little bit of everything.’ We started with wishes.
“Is a wish different than when you pray?” He would ask. Yes, it is. “What can you wish on?” Shooting stars, birthday candles, pennies in fountains, wishbones…definitely wishbones. Loads of hay (because of the poem) an eyelash… “Do wishes come true?” Maybe. You never know. If you say it out loud -your wish - definitely not. But if you don’t, then…maybe.
The wish conversation lasted weeks, a new question every few days. Joey, I told him in August, I am guessing on most of this you know. Wishes are tricky. No one knows for sure how they work.
“I know.” He nodded, accepting the mystery.
We’ve touched on heaven and death, animal souls, why people might kill each other, why we should try hard not to use the word stupid (unless something is really stupid and then it might be okay), water temperature, dew, what salamanders eat, how to get squirrels out of our attic. Guy mostly nods along, unless Joey disagrees with me and then he too is adamantly opposed, trying to impress his brother with his allegiance. Guy wonders about topics like, can we marry Mom? Does Tino (our dog) look happy or sad? How many carrots do I have to eat before I can see in the dark? Elena mostly wants to chat about feelings. Like how she feels when her brothers run ahead and leave her at the mailbox.
Explaining the world to all three of them proves trickier than explaining wishes. The boys caught me getting all teary eyed over a pot of spaghetti at dinner and I explained carefully that I was feeling sad about Iraq, religious minorities, persecution, wars, the middle east. I worked really hard not to use the phrase ‘beheadings’ and ‘bombings’. I felt like I had to throw up. We prayed for those that are the outcast and oppressed. Then we prayed for those that were killing. Then we talked about how Jesus loves the whole world. “Everybody?” They asked me. Was I sure? Yes. I told them. Even us.
Sometimes remembering is just as important as conversation. One day at lunch we paused to remember a friend that lost a baby to a miscarriage. It has been two years but this was the day that she remembers, so we remember too. We talked about how a life is a life no matter how short, or how small. The small children sitting here didn’t ask if I was sure. They knew this in their being to be true.
This Summer Of Much Conversation has me sometimes silent. I tell my children this world is beautiful and then watch the news and it seems impossible. It feels like a lie. One night I was up weighing the number of orphans in the world, disease, famine, abandonment and heartache against all the good. The scale tipped heavily and I couldn’t sleep. All my talking at God seemed to just echo very loudly in the cave. Early in the next morning’s light, I took the list of all those that died in the Newtown School shooting. Alone, very softly and very slowly I read each name aloud. And if there is any connection in this universe at all, may the mothers know that their children’s names are not forgotten.
And although the light came later in time it still stayed to flood our day. And at breakfast I kissed each one of my living breathing children on their sweet pea-pod heads. We settled in to talk about whatever they might want to discuss this morning. Why does toast brown with heat? Why do bananas have a peel like a little house that we don’t eat? Their little hands and eyes and heart and minds just waiting to be imprinted.
They are beautiful and I love them so much, the scale tips back just a little.
Questions with answers and questions with none. Always keep the conversation. Even the silent ones.
And in our conversations about the world I look at my children and know: no Body makes it out of here alive. And no soul leaves without feeling the bruising of the brokenness. I don’t tell them this. They will find out soon enough. Maybe they already know.
What I do tell them about this life? About the life of the soul and the life on this earth and the life that they are honored to have? I point to the beauty and tell them the truth. My God, it is a miracle.