#4 spent the night with his best friend last night. As usual, he stayed up way too late, until 3 AM, and then was awakened at again for the new day at 8. When I got him back he was so tired he looked sick, and felt that way too.
I read to him from “The Yearling,” a book he doesn’t like much because the author waxes too descriptive, and because he doesn’t like “farm” books, but I make him lie still just the same and listen. It is beautiful writing and describes a childhood on the land that Americans don’t get to live anymore. After I sent him to his bed I noticed the picture in the book of the family carrying their crippled child, Fodderwing’s, coffin to be buried. I had forgotten that part of the story, having read it only once before years ago to #2. I read anxiously ahead to the part about Fodderwing’s death to see if it would be too sad for #4. It was pretty sad, but I still plan to read it to him. (#4 really objects to big sadness in stories.)
Then I went to lie down with him while he fell asleep. He said, (with his pretty, almond-shaped eye looking back towards me, with his soft, tired, little boy voice) “Mom, tomorrow, if I have time, I want to go to L.K. Machines and make one of those rubber band machine guns they show.” Then he cuddled his back into my belly and slipped the back of his curled little hand into mine (yes, his hand is still small compared to mine, but not for much longer) and was quiet.
So I was left in the dark with my quiet child, thinking about other mothers through the ages who have lost theirs . And about how love is the main thing in this world. It causes us no end of joy and pain, but it is the main thing everywhere in Creation. And as Penny Baxter says to his wife in “The Yearling,” …the day may come when you’ll know the human heart is allus the same. Sorrer (sorrow) strikes the same all over….”
Then I wished that #4 (whose Dad died when he was four) would get a new Dad, maybe a man like Penny Baxter. A man of the Earth, with wisdom and sensitivity and a warm, loving heart that hurts when he kills his family’s meat. A man who just happens to have a heart full of love for #4 too, who wants to teach him, share his mind and heart with him, and conspire with him in that warm, humorous way men do to protect their male understandings from me, the female being who can never completely understand.