life is a highway


lucky to know him

Nine weeks of Spanish and he’s fluent now, his own version.
Just this morning he counted to infinity. Twice.

We began a fifth chapter book tonight at bedtime, Who was Albert Einstein, because he saw it and couldn’t wait to start. There are also bookmarks in Skinnybones, The Boxcar Children, Captain Underpants and Who was Thomas Alva Edison.

After school last week he was explaining needs and wants and gave examples of food and candy, clothes and video games.  Asked about books he immediately classified them as needs because they’re food for your brain.  Duh.

He leaves his calling card, half-built lego structures with wheels and propellors, all over the house.  This evening's creation was a piece of Earth that shows what it looks like when you're in space -- sections of lava and ocean and sand and grass and clouds.

A few weeks ago he figured out the remote control for his motorized gears could set off the fire alarm at RoRo’s house, if he stood on the right step and aimed the antennae at the alarm.

He's using a box of parts, broken radios and old computers, wires and transistors and bottle caps, to disguise his Thanksgiving turkey as a robot, to help it survive through the holiday.

He changes his mind six times before he decides on cereal for breakfast.  He picks his own pajamas, most often the top from one set and the bottom from another.

When I need a miracle, I look at him and remember I already have one.  Two.

I am entirely guilty of excessive sentimentality, but I always see in him the tiniest matryoshka.  How can he be old enough to explain economics, independent enough to glove his own fingers, big enough to decode words and to straddle worlds between make-believe and reality?
Part way through the first page, Tuck paused and said Wait, Albert was a real person, right?  Andy and I assured him that he was.  So this book is non-fiction then, it's all true?  We explained the word biography, and said that maybe someday people could read a book about him.  Andy pretended to begin writing it: On the 7th of March in the year 2009, a baby named Thomas Betz was born in Columbus, Ohio...
Tuck leaned back in bed and covered his face with his blanket.

I am getting better at seeing him as an independent being, not just my son, but his own self.  And I think about all the people who might see him the way I do -- kind, creative, generous, funny.  They'll be lucky to know him.


two hundred years later

Several days ago Tolliver pushed a small wooden chair from one side of the living room to the other, positioning it next to the mantel. He wanted to reach the cradle we keep there. Andy caught him in the process and lifted it down to show him, explaining that we cannot play with it, despite the fact that it's the right size for my T Rex to take a nap. Or that it looks fun to hit with drum sticks! Andy began reading aloud the letter that stays with the cradle, but Tollie lost interest about half way through. It's an interesting story though, and it occurred to me that we might appreciate preserving the words in digital form, here, especially if the cradle continues to be an attractive toy for a certain soon-to-be three year old.  Although, the little cradle must be pretty tough because it sure sounds like it’s been well loved.
The envelope is soft and torn at the creases.  It says:
For Rosemary
The Story About This Little Cradle

The letter inside reads:
Rosemary Darling:
A long, long time ago, about the year 1810, there was a man named Captain Ward (who was your great, great, great Grandfather).  He was an English man, and made many voyages across the Atlantic ocean, and finally he decided to make his home on Nantucket Island, it was there that your great, great grandfather was born and lived.
Even after he lived on Nantucket Island, Captain Ward made voyages, carrying merchandise in his boat, and in those days it took many weeks to make an ocean voyage, it was on one of those long voyages that he made, with his small pocket knife, this beautiful little cradle and brought it home for his daughter, MARY, and she was so happy with it and played with it till she was quite a grown up girl, then she carefully put it away, as the years passed, Mary did not have any little girls, so she gave it to her brother Asher, who had married a very pretty girl named Nancy, and they had six little girls, their names were Mary, Laura, Susan, Sarah, Rosetta and Ellen, they all played with the cradle and loved it so much, and all of them wanted it for their very own, but Nancy and Asher kept it until all six of the girls were married and lived in their own homes, then one day when Rosetta went to visit her parents they gave her the little cradle, and she was, oh, so happy about that, Rosetta was very beautiful and always so kind and good, I think that is why they gave it to her, and she was your great Grandmother, so when her little daughter was old enough she had many happy times playing with the little cradle, I am sure about that, because you see, Rosemary, I was her little girl and loved to put my dolly to bed in the little cradle.  Then after quite several years passed, there was your Mother, my little daughter, and she played with the cradle and was so careful to keep it nice, I am sure that she knew someday she would have a sweet little daughter, who would love to have this little cradle, so here it is for you at last, Rosemary, and little Ginnette is just waiting for you to put her little nighty on and put her to sleep in the dear little old fashioned cradle.
Loads of kisses and hugs, and a merry Christmas,
Grandmother and Grandfather

*Captain Ward would be Tucker and Tolliver's great, great, great, great, great grandfather.


around here

Lego candy dispenser, perfect post-Halloween project
feeding blood worms to the fly trap
a robot autopsy, and another drum set
puzzles with Aunt Cherie
stories don't just write themselves
he has homework, too
playing "store"
playing "baby"
Harry the Dirty Dog, and a self composed piece ironically titled "Quiet"
he is pretty much all ta-da


He makes it look easy to keep an open heart.

When I watch him play with new friends I think about how we all seem to be born with the notion that people are decent.
At this age, and on most days, Tollie occupies such an inviting space.  He is so fully aligned with himself that he has plenty of room for others.

I mean, he'll swing a golf club at a child who steals his ball.  But he doesn't hold grudges, doesn't pass judgment. He has an unclouded ability to connect and an indomitable expectation for good from every interaction.



There are, occasionally, moments I'd like to cut into tiny pieces, morsels I might ration to myself at times when their affection toward one another wanes.


sons, for whom we want everything

What happens to our children happens, in a mysteriously refracted way, to us.
When the boys experience rejection we feel it with them.  When one is criticized we sense the blade of sharp words pierce our own skin.  A part of us detects, like the vibrations of a distant bell, when either of them gets hurt.  We wake to some sort of molecular disturbance when one of them spikes a middle of the night fever.  The insecurity that grows in them accrues to us as well.

When Tucker is having a rough day, when small things loom large, and large things cast big shadows,  my day feels dark and bumpy too.  I know that it is not his worst day, his hardest thing, I know that he has already been through worse.  I also know, exactly, the way certain things can feel Mt. Everest in the moment.  I always try to look at Tuck with eyes that say You are good enough, even when my words are asking him to be better.

I have been tempted on so many occasions to make myself a bridge, to throw my body at his feet to help him through the awkward and around the uncomfortable, over the ugly and across the unknown, to make something easier for him, a friendship, a problem, a learning curve.  When I feel the swell of mama bear, I can't always tell whether it's an anxious meddlesomeness or a protective kinship.  But as his mother there is always, always this desperate, clumsy desire to make it better, even when I know perfectly well that nothing can.

What I can do, though, is remind him that he is wonderful.  Remind him that tomorrow is another day, that new and better things await.  Remind him that he is good enough until he believes it.

I speak the words to my son, but I might as well use them to remind myself, too.