Mia is standing on the front sidewalk, ready to ride off into the almost-sunset on her pink and white scooter. She's quite a good scooter-er, now. Speedy and fearless with her hair flying backwards, a super-hero cape of many strands. The boy from two houses down is on his new bike. He is her neighborhood playmate, and a sweet, energetic boy.
Their conversation is definitely worthy of eavesdropped attention, but I make myself known, instead. (This time.) I park myself on the top step and listen to the way Mia's voice changes from dependent and questioning towards confident and knowing. She holds her own with this second-grader. I marvel at her assurance. Was I ever so outgoing with kids at that age? I must have been -- I did have friends and I remember being wildly silly -- but the overwhelming feeling I get when remembering childhood is one of personal insecurity.
But Mia, she is strong and tall and straight. The boy, I fancy, is in love. How could he not be? (Probably all kinds of ways, but when I see my girl, I fall in love, myself. She is exquisite. Even on this day, with tangled hair and a mouth stained red from too much Valentine's candy.)
He is telling her about his bike -- a truly wonderful story of generosity and hope: bikes were donated to every child who used to attend a now-demolished, tornado-destroyed elementary school. I smile and shake my head. The outpouring of gifts and time and love our community has seen is powerful to behold. And we behold so much of it, every day.
He talks about his old scooters, his Valentine's Day party, his long-ago trip to the hospital for the flu. Somewhere in the middle of medicine and overnight nurses, his eyes light on our pumpkin. You remember, right? The pumpkin I talked about doing away with a month ago? The one that's been sitting on our front stoop since before Halloween?
Feel free to imagine its state of decay, because I'm not sharing a current photo. Perhaps the shame from our laziness is a deterrent.. Anyway, you're welcome. It's not a pretty sight, with its orange faded to a putrid, foggy yellow on top, just where a few slight snowfalls have dampened its crown. It's begun to cave-in like the lip of a too-wide volcano.
"What do you think of our pumpkin?" I ask. There is a twinkle in my eye. If I'd asked this question to my daughters, which I have, the response I'd receive, and have received, would be a mixture of dramatic, downturned faces and belligerent declarations of disgust. Super fun to watch.
But this boy. He is not a girl.
He stares at the lump of softening, pulpy matter, eyes wide with appreciation, and then...
"Can I shoot it?"
I am left completely speechless at the pure, unabashed boy-ness of his response.
I feel a great and pressing urge to brush up on my boy-survival skills now, if you'll excuse me.
Note: Said boy later proceeded to carry the rotting pumpkin to the woods beside our house as a valiant favor. How should I thank him? Fresh cookies? A round of BBs for his gun*? Free access to all future rotting organic matter?
*I have no idea if he does, in fact, own a pumpkin-slaying weapon. Maybe he wanted to shoot it with a light-saber.**
**Do light sabers shoot?
NoteII: See above reference to brushing up on boy-survival skills. I need help.