M found a rock for her brother last Saturday. It was green. She asked me to carry it for her. I had to put it in the other pocket, not the one holding the rocks she'd already given me to carry for her own collection.
I forgot to take those ones out, and Ep discovered them in the wash. Forgot to check my own pockets before starting that load...
Not that M missed them. I interpret for her - the joy in collecting them is finding, and gathering, and having me admire the ones she selected. It is the giving to her brother, and his gratitude for her consideration, too. The knowledge that someone is there with her, holding onto her finds. Those are the things I notice in her quiet joy. What else is in there, in with the dirt, and the rocks, in with the grubby hands and the dusty knees? What grows in her as we walk, and gather, and stir up dust?
I remember gathering rocks and giving them to my mother to hold. I could almost feel her presence behind me, like the warmth of the sun on my back, reliable and constant. I can remember the intensity of the sparkle of a bit of gravel, black and white and gray, blazing with flecks of sunlight more dazzling than stars. I remember the softness of the dust, swirling my fingers through it, making sweeping patterns, sweat gathering behind my knees as I crouched down near the hard earth... and then FLASH, another fragment catching my eye. I remember my mom leaning over my hand, examining my find with me, her blond hair coming out of the pins in the breeze, the scent of Eucalyptus groves and heat in the air. The certainty of life was held in those memories: The world is mine to gather. My mother is always there to carry my treasures home. My discoveries are important. Beauty is everywhere, and is found by looking for it.
My mother didn't follow along on my rock collecting wanders because her parents had - they hadn't. She invented that patience and interest and regard for my scientific mind for herself. She didn't have a picture of what I was gaining from her mothering, only a sense that this was right. Kids should be allowed - allowed to lead, to get grubby, to gather rocks, to have their rocks admired, to have their finds carried home in someone's pocket. Just allowed.
Whether my kids learn the same lessons from gathering rocks as I did, I don't know. The conversation is unique for each of us - mother to child, father to child, each pair different even within one family. My pains were different than hers, and my parenting differs as well. Not better, necessarily, just mine. Which again makes me wonder what I am teaching, in this process - what am I giving, and what are they taking from it?
Maybe the lesson of the rocks, and dirt, and grubby hands is ... just being. Walking in the sun, looking for beauty, seeing the unexpected in the ordinary, touching the earth. Certainly that's enough.