My oldest boy is adept at finding aloneness, even in a family filled with boys. He is the one who disappears, who can be found, if we were to search, which we don’t, far on the edge of the property, deep in a land of his own making. He is a pretender, a wanderer in his mind, a boy who lives a thousand lives before every dinnertime.
This evening was warm and his game required the front yard and driveway; luckily his brothers were off being sociable at the neighbors’. I watched him from the kitchen window, open perhaps for the final time before winter comes. I watched his face fly through the expressions of a dozen characters. I watched substantial breeze flatten his long hair to his scalp. He propped himself in the old red wagon and gazed ferociously at the sky, stabbing the soft ground with a specially sharpened stick. It’s not often I know exactly what any one of my boys might be feeling, but this, I knew. I was like that. Windy, warm, cloudy evenings were best for it, for immersion into a world of your choosing. Later, when I walked the tired old dogs, I pretended I was a peasant woman with goats.
That wagon – we used to walk miles with it, T and I, a baby L bundled up in the bottom. We collected leaves and pine cones and more than a few accidental handfuls of dirt, adding them to our wide-eyed load. By the end of our walk, L would be covered with evidence of the season. He never seemed to mind. Usually he fell asleep and T and I would leave him in the yard when we returned to the house, while we went inside for our cocoa. The days of small boys are gone, but our wagon – and the gangly boy in it – remains as an intersection of timelessness and timeliness. A reminder that time can both fly and stand unearthly still in the windy gloaming of a November evening, a phenomenon best explained by a particular law of physics as yet undiscovered.