Tucked in among the surprises of the past week was a gift from Boy one. Bold, cocky boy with the never ending words was quiet, almost bashful coming into the room.
I made something for you, he said.
The last thing he made me was a sign for Christmas two years ago. Somehow in the chaos of Christmas, it was lost before it ever made it to my door. I’m not a thing person really, but over that I could still cry.
Here, he said. He handed me a string of beads on a piece of yarn. On one end I detected a lopsided cross. I twisted it around seeing how to make the cross lie flat and wondered if my head would fit inside the circle.
It’s a rosary, he said looking down. I made it for you, then I kept it for a while but I thought today maybe I should give it to you. I don’t make things very much. Not like the other kids.
I looked with curiosity through plastic beads to the boy. Sometimes with pride, sometimes with frustration, still for months upon months I have been seeing a young man in his gangly limbs and brooding eyes. All that wing flapping and splashing makes it hard to remember the boy inside it all, but I touched the beads and there he was. The boy he always has been. The boy we all are.
We visited my mother’s grave a few days ago. We took things the kids had made and decorated it. Sang a song, said some prayers, and had a snack. The kids didn’t like it that we undecorated before we left. My explanations about cemetery rules didn’t satisfy so I switched to theories about time.
Really smart people say it doesn’t exist, I said. Not like we think it does with past, present and future. If your treasures were here as a gift today, they’re always here now, even if we take them.
Maybe this is how we grow old without ever ceasing to be the child we were. However it works, I have translucent beads on multicoloured yarn between crooked knots from the boy who is taller than me, to remind me that it’s true. That for all our dreams of manhood, we pray and hope and love with the heart of a child.
In my pocket my fingers touch the beads softly. If I could hold on to the gift of this picture, with what gentleness could I see the world?
And if not that, at least the grace to hold this imageof my son.