The story begins with a haircut, a boy who wanted to grow his hair long like all of the California surfers he sees suddenly decided he wanted it short again. I obliged. It also begins with a long conversation about mortality, the fact that all things living die someday is something we decided not to hide our children from, but to allow them to experience it as early as possible so that it forms an essential part of their world view and hopefully keeps them from the kind of trauma many of our viscerally insulated society experience when we first encounter death. We also think its psychologically beneficial to realize this about ourselves, and helps us to live more authentically. (Yes we are nerds and spend a lot of time talking about these kinds of things. What can I say? I liked the fact that he had a degree in philosophy.) It leads to interesting conversations sometimes. I don’t remember the convoluted route that the bedtime conversation took to get to the Boy saying, “But I don’t want you to die mommy.” But there we were.
I eventually convinced him that although I would die someday, I did not think it would be for a very long time, and that I hoped that by the time I died he would be all grown up into a man and wouldn’t need my help anymore, and maybe even he would have babies and I would know them too before I left him.
Before all of this however was my husband’s very redneck, white robe wearing, Hitler was a pussy because the holocaust never really happened, feed the baby coke in the bottle grandfather, whom the family has been trying to forget ever since.
The beginnings converge as I took some of his very long summer blond hair and put it in an envelope in his special things box with a label for year and season so I could remember how old he was when he had this hair.
“Why are you keeping my hair mommy?”
“So that when you are all grown up and gone I can look in this box and remember what your hair was like when you were 4, and I can remember this day when I cut it, because you won’t be a little boy forever, very soon you will grow up into a man.”
“Yeah, I’m going to be a big man, and someday I’m going to be big enough to build my own house and [my sister] will come and live with me and I will live a long long time before I die and when I don’t need you anymore, you might die but I will be a big man and I will be able to take care of [MY SISTER]!”
Isn’t it sweet how he cares for his sister?
“And then she will be a grown up LADY and she will have a daughter.”
I reply, “Really honey, so will her husband live in your house too, because normally a woman doesn’t get pregnant unless she is married.” (Spare me the PC lecture, he’s four, and while I am well aware that women can get pregnant without getting married, I’d like him to think that he can’t get any pregnant until he marries one. Plus, I’m not ready to go into all of the details about sex yet so we’ll just leave it there, Kay?”)
“No she won’t have a husband, because she’s going to live with me, and I think she’s actually going to have a boy baby mom.”
“Honey she won’t be able to have a baby unless she has a husband.”
“But I’m going to be her husband mom and she will have a baby because I will take her to the midwife and then the midwife will help her to have a baby.”
“Boy, brothers and sisters aren’t supposed to marry each other,” say I, as visions of Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator flash through my mind, ewe creepy.
The boy is starting to get upset, “But I’m going to marry her mom because I love her and we will live together and have BABIES.”
I just hope that by the time I tell him how babies actually happen he will not be interested in having them with his sister anymore. If not I will have to go find CA’s grave and rip him out of it to cuss him out about his lousy genetics.