Monday, November 4, 2013

Memento mori

He cannot walk past a flower without picking it. In formal gardens, this means we walk holding hands and offering reminders. In sidewalks or our lawn, he is the generous gardener. You make call them wildflowers or offhandedly, disparagingly, ignorantly call them [shudder] "weeds," but he sees each one as a gift not yet plucked, a dream not yet fulfilled. In G's mind, that clover or dandelion or buttercup or shamrock blossom grew in that spot just so he could pinch its stem and offer its beauty up in love.

It's for youuu-uu! G coos each time he sees something growing. A bend, a pause, a tiny snap. And then: see, Mommy! I picked-ed it just for you! He's past-tensing all his past-tenses now, a verbal redundancy that makes me smile inside, both because his sisters did just the same and because I know it's not long until he outgrows that little quirk. I really missed-ed you today, he says each evening, often as he reaches for a tiny flower.

He often says, you could put it in your hair! Never mind the feeble tensile strength and grippability of my fine, straight tresses. It won't work, this you and I know, but I try each time. A clover or buttercup stem might stay (not exactly in my hair but) perched on the ridge above my ear for a moment or two. Anything heavier and the flower tumbles right down. I catch it each time, gently, palms together and open, and offer to stick the stem in the pocket of my jeans. The little blossom sticks up, a periscope from the depths of my denim, secret hiding place of rocks and lucky pennies and wonder they see in the tiny little objects they entrust to my care.

Sometimes I find a dandelion stem in the lint catcher of the dryer door. The petals gone, the green tint faded to a waxy olive, the seeds cling tiny to their central tufted core. Tenacious little guys. That's why we wish on them, I always think as I clean out the dryer vent. The dreams with the best chance of coming true need be hung on sturdy anchors.

The preschool class planted a flower garden at the beginning of spring. I arrive to pick him up and the class is out on the playground. Deftly, before I can say no, he kneels and picks something big, bold. A mum or a dahlia or something. The truth is that I don't know the names of many flowers. The kids' garden is quickly fading. We've had an overnight frost or two and these will be gone soon. Maybe I should have scolded him, but what's done was done, and I can't argue against his gift when it would have otherwise died on the stalk. I really missed-ed you, he says wide-eyed and smiling, as he pulls me to bend so he can reach my hair. Could you argue against such a gesture?

It falls and I catch it and we walk holding hands, I, ever the predictable adult, encouraging a straight line and efficiency, mindful that we still must get his girls; and he, ever the three-year-old, jumping over the grout lines and bending for a pretty leaf and telling all there is to tell about Charlie the Caterpillar, recently discovered by his class and moved inside to a terrarium in the science corner. Charlie poops a lot and his poops are big.

This blossom, hari-karied from my hair and saved with urgency, citrine or turmeric or goldenrod by turns against autumn's fading low sun, it's too big for my pocket. And anyway I need two hands to buckle his straps so merrily we can row along. I stick it on the dashboard, a summer-holdover of a pompom next to a thermostat reading that hasn't left the 40s all day.

There it's sat, somehow diminishing in volume but not at all in vibrancy, and I should throw it out soon, and I will. But not yet. I don't know how many more blossoms I'll see before winter is here. When spring should come, he'll likely be a boy who knows his tenses, and he might not be anymore a boy who picks flowers for his mama.

That all will be well because he'll be a boy who's growing up. I'll find in him new delights and he'll find in himself new expressions. I see it every minute I sit in my car (so many minutes) and I'm debossing a memory so that maybe, with or without his attention to next year's blossoms, I'll recall the nuance of his speech and his fumbling gentle touch against the side of my head, even without rereading the words I catalog here in preservation of the ever-fleeting moments. It's a nearly dead flower. I let it linger.

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