11 October, 2013

Thoughts About Leaves



KJ's sense of curiosity has developed from "I will eat this rock" to "I will say 'wock' before I eat this rock." Her ability to accept and explore things as they are is the absolute opposite of Gage's ever-questioning little mind. The "why?" and "how?" and "when?" questions have matured and require in-depth answers that often involve me running a quick google search after he's in bed so that the next morning I can explain the process of laying a foundation or why rainbows actually exist. He never forgets a question and if I can't give him an adequate answer, he dutifully asks me again the next morning after teeth are brushed and beds are made. And I've learned to have an answer ready.

This insatiable love of knowledge has a tendency to lean to the morbid side, as he's still making emotional connections and is sometimes unable to process that topics like death and sickness are sad. "What happens when we get old?"
"Our bodies change. Sometimes our hair loses its color and turns gray, or our teeth get soft and we have to replace them, or our bones get tired and we can't walk as well."
"Do we die?"
"Yep, but you aren't going to die for a long time."
"But is my grandma? She has gray hair. And is that man at church? He can't walk."
"We are all going to die, but not for a long time."
"But we could die tomorrow."
"We could, but I don't think we will."
And surprisingly, he's content. Like, okay. I trust you, Mom. And his lack of emotion about things like this is sometimes a little unsettling.

I was stunned when he started to cry in the car the other day when he asked me why the leaves were turning yellow and red.

"Because it's getting colder, so the leaves are dying."

He didn't answer and I assumed he was satisfied with my response. I checked in the rearview mirror and his downturned lips and quivering chin soon gave way to fat tears that glittered their way down his cheeks.

"But I don't want them to die."

"They'll come back in the spring."

"Not the same ones, Mom. New ones."

"But they'll look the same."

"But they won't be the same ones, Mom. They are all dying."

His little heart was heavy and try as I might to explain the Circle of Life concept of seasons and change, he just shook his head and continued to cry quietly.

When we sat in the backyard yesterday and watched yellow leaves flurry down in the wind like snow, he gathered as many as his hands could clutch and carefully tied them to his play-set (he is an expert knot-tier).  Homage to our tree? To life and death? He handled each one so carefully that when a particularly dry leaf crumbled in his palm he gasped and dropped it like a hot coal. 

The trees in our yard are the last in the neighborhood to make the fateful change from green to orange. I'd never really felt anxiety about the changing of the seasons before Gage's emotional upheaval, but I have this nearly irrepressible urge to get a ladder and hot glue each leaf back onto its branch. "Not yet," my heart pleads. "Stay around a little longer."  

It's hard to learn to say goodbye.

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