This boy is… sunshine and rain, fragility and wonder, wisdom and ferocity. He is as intense as he was when he was a baby, but that intensity is tempered by learning: he’s starting to read, to write, to discover that the world can be recorded thusly, with vowels and consonants dancing together to make words magically arise from the alphabet he’s known so long.
In the car driving to school he says, “Mama, what’s at the end of the universe?”
“I don’t know,” I answer, still bumble-headed, with not enough coffee in my veins. “What do you think?”
“Is it just blackness with no air and no dust?” He asks after a little while.
Immediately I imagine such a thing: a vast blackness. “That sounds pretty close,” I nod.
And he nods too–I see it in my rear view mirror, but then he says, “But Mommy, what I just don’t understand is nothing. I mean, what is nothing?”
Are there words to answer this? If there are, I do not know them and so I shrug. We’re passing the blue corner of the lake that we drive by every day. Egrets, a pair of them, gray like metal, swoop like javelins towards the marsh at the edge. The sky is cloudless, the morning already hazy with heat.
We’re quite now, our minds both filled with the remarkable density of nothing; its scope and weight, its emptiness and distance.
Then he says, “I have another question Mommy.”
I brace for it, smiling a little. On days like this when he stares long out the window on the way to school, his thoughts are a different universe I hardly ever get to visit, and when he lets me in I’m always surprised to find myself a foreigner there, without maps or charts or directions to navigate. “Go on, what is it?” I ask.
“What is the purpose of humans?” his voice pitches up. “I mean, why are we here on this earth at all anyway? What are we for?”
This, before 8a.m. I almost laugh. “That’s a question people ask their whole lives, I think,” I say tenderly, looking back for his expression in the mirror. And then I add, “What do you think?”
He’s quiet for a while, and then he says, “Well maybe we’re here to teach the earth how to love.”
There are no words, really, for the gratitude I feel, that I am his mama. That this particular teacher has found me, clad in the lanky limbed body of my 7.5 year old son.
“I think you’re right,” I tell him, and when we pull up to school I kiss him hard and then watch him climb out, his backback nearly dragging, and then run up to the doors of the school, sunshine trailing him. And at the very last minute he turns to me, a huge grin on his face, and then he waves.