By Jacque Gorelick
With the lazy days of summer winding down, my almost-5th-grader and I went away overnight, checking off his last “Summer Bucket List” item: alone time with mum.
During our 24-hours free from WiFi, little brothers, and distractions, we covered some territory; and I don’t mean our long walks on the beach.
He asks a lot of questions. Some inspired by the world we live in, some inspired by being ten.
What happens when we die?
Will we go to war?
What are nuclear weapons?
Do you think animals speak different languages?
How fast does a rocket go?
Sometimes I have answers; sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I can offer reassurance; sometimes I can’t.
These days, more often than I want to be, I’m distracted and worried about the world in which he’s growing up. Like him, I’m full of questions. Some triggered by current events, some triggered by raising another human being into adulthood without a crystal ball or promise that it will all shake out OK.
What happens when I die?
Will we go to war?
What about nuclear weapons?
Will my kids be safe? With their bodies, their choices, other people’s feelings?
How fast will this next chapter of life go?
In our time together, I realized we’re both searching. For answers. Reassurance. And the next sure footing to place our weight on, and step forward.
He in his 10-year-old way. And me in my mother-wife-almost-middle-aged-woman way. Nevertheless, we’re both searching.
I took him to the beach. Because we both like open space, starry skies, and s’mores.
I drove us down streets where I learned to drive, playing songs I came of age to, drinking familiar coffee that sustained me. We entered neighborhoods I hadn’t driven through in years. Still, I knew where to go. Without cell phones, or Google Maps, or even conscious thought.
It’s muscle memory.
I took him to the coffee shop I used to frequent, in the days I had to scrape together coins to buy a coffee. Unlike so much else from then to now, it was exactly the same.
We walked in and noticed an old man sitting at an even older piano, playing choppy, drawn out notes, fumbling to find keys. Pencil marks overflowed from the margins of his sheet music. The song he played took every last bit of concentration he had. After three years of piano lessons, my son understood the effort being made to get through this one song. He looked at me and held my gaze to tell me so; eyes filled with kindness, not judgment.