“Mom, can we walk up to Brookside?”
You have to stop. You have to stop and think right there before you answer. Seemingly innocent you can say, “Yes, fine, you can just have Czechoslovakia,” and the next thing you know all of Europe is Hell and gone and you know you have no one to blame but yourself.
Swiveling in my chair to face him, “Um. I don’t know. What do you have in mind?”
“You know, it’s a nice day. I just thought it would be fun to walk up there. You know, our whole family.”
I know what you’re thinking. “So dear.” You can’t even see him so you don’t know how charming the freckles, how endearing the stock of hair so like his father’s but still wearing childhood’s golden glaze and the magic sparkle of his blue eyes. All this, combined with the query posed so sweetly would make you want to say, “Say yes! Why wouldn’t you? He’s adorable and is just asking for a little unstructured time with his family!”
But what you also don’t know is that it’s not particularly a nice day. Cool and rainy on and off, it’s not the best day to commit to a fifteen-minute walk both ways if things take a turn for the worse. And he’s smart. And savvy. He knows that both the walking and the family part are sure to get me.
“Is there something, perhaps, that you want in Brookside? A particular reason you would like to walk up today?”
“Oh. Well, no, not really,” says he as he averts his eyes.
“Well, I do have some money…..”
So here I go, the mental dance, the pas de deux of good mother/bad mother bouncing around in my head. It is his money. But there is a trunk size box of Legos upstairs, oh, yes, more Legos is what he is after, that are not interesting as they are not part of a kit. And he just received new Legos from the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny whom he knows does not exist, but we are all, the four of us, complicit in the lie in order to let the youngest have some glimpse of the comforting myths of childhood.
“Darling, really, there must be two million Lego pieces upstairs. Wouldn’t it be better to make something of your own? Use your imagination! And, really, there cannot be something new all the time. What about the Legos you just received? We need to find joy in what we have. We can’t always be looking to the next new thing. We have everything we need.”
“Mmm-hmmm,” as he turns away, head bowed, and angle of his shoulders drop twenty degrees. And I turn back to my desk, eyes just sweeping the new lamps awaiting the new shades across from the new basalt bowl.