Some days, after exhausting the topics of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and poisonous snakes, I run out of things to discuss with my six-year-old son. Say we’re driving from school to an afternoon tennis lesson. He might be content to stare out the window, but after ten minutes, I feel the need to communicate. How do I engage him?
One Thursday afternoon, I tried something new. In a moment of improvisation, I said to my son, “The sky looks beautiful today. Look at all those colors. I see pink, orange, yellow, peach, and blue. What colors do you see?” It worked. He leaned forward in his seat, studied the sky, and said, “It is beautiful, Mom. I see purple too! And white. And clouds.” We relaxed into our seats and enjoyed the rest of the ride home.
We still talk to each other about the colors we see in the sky. It is something we do in the car, shuttling through our busy days. Dusk is our favorite. One very special evening, we even watched the sun slip into the Florida Gulf. On days when our sky is flat gray, we recall the pastel array in the sky and the sunlight tickling the water.
Someday when I am gone, I hope my son will look up to the sky and catalogue its colors. I hope the peach, orange, yellow, and pink will be set against the black silhouettes of trees. I hope someone he loves will be seated beside him, and I hope he will think of me as Ted Kooser thinks of his mother: “Were it not for the way you taught me to look/at the world, to see the life at play in everything,/I would have to be lonely forever. “
by Ted Kooser
Mid April already, and the wild plums
bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
against the exuberant, jubilant green
of new grass an the dusty, fading black
of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
only the delicate, star-petaled
blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.
You have been gone a month today
and have missed three rains and one nightlong
watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
from six to eight while fat spring clouds
went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
dragging its shaggy belly over the fields.
The meadowlarks are back, and the finches
are turning from green to gold. Those same
two geese have come to the pond again this year,
honking in over the trees and splashing down.
They never nest, but stay a week or two
then leave. The peonies are up, the red sprouts
burning in circles like birthday candles,
for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
everything ready to burst with living.
There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
You asked me if I would be sad when it happened
and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
Were it not for the way you taught me to look
at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I would have to be lonely forever.