Monday, April 30, 2012
Sis’s birthday box from Grandma contained goodies for everyone. Peanut received twenty pairs of princess panties because Grandma knows that the kid has a strong aversion to clothing, over which she is happy to go ten rounds every single day. Grandma made a twenty-pair investment in my sanity for which I am deeply grateful (and so far so good – she came home, put them on and promptly tried to marry her brother).
Mister unwrapped a plastic hand skeleton and very fine replica of the human pelvis. Papa is retired from his medical practice and did not need extra bones sitting around the house. Mister yelped, snatched the severed arm from its box and began waving it around the car like a flag. Sis alternated covering her eyes and ears, yelling, “Why did Grandma have to send that! It just freaks me out.” Peanut, dead-pan, weighed in. “It doesn’t freak me out.” I closed the slider on the van and pretended I couldn’t hear anything.
Sis used to think bones were cool. She even referred to her own skeleton affectionately as Bone Guy, as in “Good thing I have a Bone Guy, otherwise I would fall on the ground.” But somewhere between toddlerhood and elementary school she figured out that when we talk about bones we are usually talking about things that are dark, scary, unspeakable, shadowy, and permanent.
Tonight I walked by Mister’s room to find the bony hand reaching out of its box, across his pillow. I love that his curious mind loves bones. And I wonder if he remembers the conversation we had around the dinner table last October, when he told us he needed a brother with brown skin like him. That conversation prompted some real talk about how adoption works, birthmothers, and eventually birthfathers. We talked about how Mister’s birthfather had died after Mister was born.
Mister asked questions about his death, quietly processed the bits I could offer, and then asked if we could someday “go and find the spot.” I want our conversations about adoption to be open and honest and validating so I tried for a serious, empathetic response.
“Ya. That would be very special,” I said. “I don’t know if we could find it, but we could sure try.”
“Ya. We could find the spot, and bring shovels.”
I looked across the table to my husband for back-up before I remembered that he was working late.
“Shovels. Hmmmm. Why would we need shovels?”
“So we could dig him up.”
“I don’t know about that, Baby. We don’t usually dig people up after they die. Plus, after awhile, there isn’t anything to see except bones?”
“Yup. We could dig up the bones and bring them home with us.”
Whenever my son and I talk about adoption, I try to listen closely to the deep well of his heart, packaged as it is in little boy language. I listen for truth, as he has a history of telling it. And this conversation was no different. I had just told my son that his first father had died around the time of his birth and he had told me that he needs to be close to those bones. So we kept talking.
“What would we do with those bones, Baby?”
He had his answer ready.
“We could use them to decorate our house. We could put lights in them and make them glow up.” Sis giggled.
And I remembered that it was almost Halloween. Death, discussed in October, is flavored with celebration, glitter, and lights. Death, discussed in October, is mixed into a stew of masks, pumpkins and curling, golden maple leaves. Death, discussed with a four-year old in October, is strangely filled with mystery and promise. October lets my baby tell me that he needs to be near bones. October makes it okay to call from the earth all that has gone missing.
So, I guess is some ways, it is always Halloween at our house. I think about bones as symbols of loss and my baby boy sees bones as viable option for decoration.
We know that the things that hold us up and give us structure are breakable and we know that our breakable bones will likely be the last thing we give back to the earth. And we also know that the big Sis is scared of bones, which means the year ahead is one of rich promise for one very pleased and rascally little brother.
Exodus 13:19: Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”