Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Power of Two

The Gingerbread boy walks into the kitchen. "I really want to go upstairs to brush my teeth, but I'm too scared," he says.

Gingerbread Boy #2 leaves his bowl of unnaturally colored cereal without a word and accompanies his older brother up the stairs.

She watches them go, astounded at their brief truce.

Here in a simple moment, compassion triumphs over cold cereal. Fear seeks out friend, and the fighting ends for a brief time, all for the want of clean teeth. The power of two.

She watches them pad up the steps, and with each step, she sees them turning into gangly boys, then teenagers, then young men; by the time they reach the second floor, they're tax-paying adults. Before long, she thinks, her two will seek out two of their own: two new families, and her family of four will be down to two again.

She remembers the night when she and he became we. When a welcome hug gave away a hidden ring box in a pocket, and she couldn't stop smiling. The day she joined ranks with the anonymous Johnsons.

One and one equals two.
Then three.
Then four.

Before long the chiasmus will begin. Four will become three, then two, then one.

And then the cheese stands alone.

But she doesn't want to think about that now. There is work to be done before then. Time is so short, she thinks. There is so much left for them to learn before they're ready to fly out of the nest. There is so much left for her to teach them. How to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch. How to iron a shirt. How to ask a girl on a date. How to floss properly. How to build a fire. One never knows when one will need to build a fire. Long division. How to match colors. How to balance a checkbook. Negotiation. How to handle heartbreak. How to go upstairs to brush your teeth without being scared. The list seems endless. The list seems overwhelming.

She hears them whispering and giggling upstairs. Come back down the stairs, boys! Be six for a little while. Let me hold you on my lap. Let me hug you still before you push me away. The lessons can wait until tomorrow.

She'll start with chocolate chip cookies first.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Coloring Outside the Lines

Sometimes nothing brings joy the way a blank piece of paper does, its creamy whiteness stretching out for what seems eternity, waiting for colors from markers to rain down upon it in lines and dots, swirls and scribbles.

What is to be created? Does it matter? They take the colored sharpies in hand and draw at the kitchen table. Markers and a big piece of paper. Magic.

She draws girls and boys--girls with triangle dresses, boys with inverted triangle bodies. She draws a playground with swings and teeter-totter, children going down slides, children jumping ropes. She even draws camels at the request of the Gingerbread Man to go along with the stories he tells the gingerbread boys of Ahmad and his whistling camel.

The gingerbread boys color in her line drawings, turning pigtails red and green. One draws a piano. The other draws a great pool of blue.

She thinks she should do this more often. Big blank sheet of paper. Fresh markers. No expectations. No judgment.