One day a couple of weeks ago, Whit stayed home from school. He’d been sick to his stomach the night before, and though he woke up feeling 100% fine, I felt I should abide by the rule that says you can’t come to school if you’ve vomited in the last 24 hours. I rearranged a bunch of meetings and was able to spend the day at home with Whit. For most of the day, I was at my desk and he was watching TV, reading, or playing with Legos in the room right next door. But I managed to carve out a few pockets of time for us to do quiet things together, and it turned into a lovely, lovely day. One of those absolutely ordinary days that I know I’ll remember forever.
In keeping with my fierce belief in the healing properties of both fresh air and books, we went for a walk to the library. On the way we walked past a barren bush that was full of sparrows. Their dun-colored feathers made them almost invisible to the eye, but their music was loud enough to stop Whit in his tracks. “Do you hear that, Mummy?” He tilted his head. I nodded. He squinted, and leaned towards the bush. “I guess I can see them, if I look carefully,” he peered even more closely. “But not at first. And they are so loud! It’s magic.”
Yes, Whit, it is. I’ve been startled by the beauty of the song of sparrows before, and to witness Whit having the same reaction was powerful and surprising-but-not. We continued down the street. I pointed out birds’ nests, newly visible in the bare branches of the winter trees. At one point as we walked he slipped his hand into mine, and I squeezed it, and we walked on.
I asked him what he would like for lunch, letting him choose, as a treat. And he asked for a Panera grilled cheese, so that is what we got. Then we drove to the car wash. As we lurched into the tunnel of the wash, I looked back to watch Whit’s palpable wonder. His eyes were wide and his head was swiveling back and forth as he watched the action around us. “Look, Mummy!” (what’s better, ever, to hear than that?) “Look at the lights!” Then he held his hand to the window, noting, “I can feel the flaps banging against the side of the car.” His delight was infectious.
I picked up my phone and noticed several new Safari windows open. “Have you been on my phone, Whit?” I glanced back to see a mischievous smile on his face.
“I asking Siri questions.” I shook my head, smiling. I am not a Siri fan. “Siri is really good, you know, because if you don’t have anyone to talk to, you can always talk to her.” Meet my son: a true extrovert.
Then we went to the farm stand where I buy our Christmas wreaths every year. We picked out two: boxwood for the front door and pine for the kitchen window over the sink. Whit counted out 12 paperwhite bulbs, putting each one carefully in a brown paper bag. The man behind the counter gave him a sheet of space stickers and a lollipop. As we drove home, dusk gathering around us, Whit sighed, “That man was so nice,” and I thought to myself: please don’t ever, ever stop noticing kindness in strangers, the magic of bird song, the adventure of a car wash.
When we got home we hung the wreath on the door and walked upstairs. I had to get back on my computer. But first I looked out the window. “Whit, look!” he poked his head around the corner from the family room. “Look at that sky.” I pulled him onto my lap, his legs long and knobby, his feet almost touching the floor, and we watched the sky streak with pink through my office window. He leaned his head back against my shoulder.
“Mummy?” I pressed a kiss into the side of his cheek. “I really love days like this with you.”
Oh, my Whit, my still-seven year old son, my savant, my sage, my spirited comedian. I do too.
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