Yesterday, as we drove the hour trip home from a weekend with friends in Napa Valley, our son noticed a small airplane flying past. We watched it seemingly float midair in plain sight of the highway and eventually zoom around and make its way toward the county airport we were passing. It landed.
“Mah Aysay, Mama! Mah Aysay!” That was August’s demand after the entertainment of the fly-by was complete. More airplanes. He was not only asking for more, but doing it with deep emotion. This mattered. And we’d better get him some more airplanes up the sky. Stat.
Sometimes I hear myself turning on this “I’m your patient mother” voice in order to explain to him the ways of the world. It’s actually pretty annoying, I assume. I turned from my position in the passenger seat to face him and offer a quick lesson in the workings of airplanes and my power over them.
“Airplanes just show up sometimes and we don’t know when they’re coming, buddy. We just have to see them and be thankful when they come.”
“Mah! Mah Aysay, Mama!” My patient speech didn’t work.
On Saturday morning, August and I had walked out of house we rented for the weekend (Complete with a back yard…with grass! If you live the city, you understand how profound this was for both August and me.) and kicked around the soccer ball. It was a perfect spring morning, 65 degrees and sunny, quiet at 8 o’clock. It was out of the corner of my eye that I noticed a hot air balloon, something I knew my son had never encountered.
I explained how that balloon was as big as a house! And had a basket! And people rode in it! And it went up up up up…Then the hot air balloon floated out of sight behind the trees. I made the mistake of wording its disappearance as such: going behind the trees. August was very concerned about that. We went for a walk around the block and I realized halfway through that he was looking in the limbs of the trees we passed for the balloon. Of course he thought it was same size as all the balloons he’s ever encountered. Why wouldn’t he?
He spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday morning holding his arms out, palms up in questioning stance: “Where hah ar boon, Mama?” (Have I mentioned that “Mama” comes after almost ever question he asks? Even if I’m not there.)
“Mah ha ar boon, Mama!”
Children are selfish. It’s amazing to me that August could actually believe that every airplane and hot air balloon he encounters has been placed there simply for his own enjoyment. And that selfishness is utterly beautiful. It points to his trust in his parents. It means he believes we are good; he believes we have power. And he believes we want to use that power to care for him, not simply in feeding and clothing him, but for his own pleasure. He actually believes that we choose to direct all airplanes and other flying objects his direction in order to provide him with a few moments of bliss. Yes, sending airplanes his way is completely unnecessary, but to August, it’s not a far fetch. He’s loved, therefore, he receives the gratuitous experience and pleasure of a plane appearing out of nowhere. And, of course, you and I both know that it’s usually the unnecessary gifts that best remind us of the love of the giver.
Between last paragraph and this, my son woke, blonde hair fluffed into a helmet of post-sleep chicken feathers. He found a little balloon he’d left in the living room and turned to me. “Tee!” he said, signing tree.
Yes, I said, the hot air balloon went behind the tree…