I must admit that many times I listen to the ramblings and questions of my kids with a “Mmm hmm” or an “I don’t know…” Like when they ask how many kids Robert Downey Jr. has, or if Val Kilmer will loose weight and shave his beard (yes, I’m serious on that one!) or what happened for the umpteenth time in a movie they just watched. And while they have some very brilliant ideas, thoughts and questions they share with me throughout the day, there are a few times when I am actually taken back by the innocent wisdom of a child.
My daughter is usually the first to wake up in the morning. She comes quietly into my room and watches while I get ready and put on my makeup. She tells me about her dreams and all the other thoughts in her pretty little head. This morning, however, she fixated on a certain wooden treasure chest that sits untouched on my bathroom counter. It has been there for almost a year, unopened. As many times as she has seen it and not thought about it, this morning was different.
“I want to see what’s inside this treasure chest,” she said, trying to reach it.
“No, I don’t want to open it,” I said, dusting my face with foundation.
“But I want to know what’s in it.” A little pain went through my chest and I ignored her. But she didn’t give up. “Please… I just want to see.”
“I will open it but I don’t want to get anything out, okay?” So I opened the box carefully and she stood on her tippy toes to see. Inside was a collection of sea shells and two brightly painted wooden fish. She immediately wanted to take out one of the fish to examine it. “No,” I said, “They are special and I don’t want anything to happen to them so we are not going to take them out right now.”
“But they are so pretty! You should use them for decoration.” Nearly a year ago, I had actually taken them out and arranged them decoratively on my counter, only to quickly put them back in the chest when the tears began to flow. They had been my uncle’s decorations that my kids used to love to look at when we visited his house. Now that he had passed away, I found them painful to look at. It’s funny how certain things of a loved one can bring memories and tears, and other things not so much.
“I am not ready to take them out and use them for decoration,” I said, realizing she was not going to be silenced with just simple answers. I took the fish from her and put it away, closing back up the chest. She waited for a moment, then got the scale to use as a step stool so that she could open it again. “What are you doing? Put the scale back. First of all, it won’t work as a step stool. Secondly, I told you I don’t want to open it and take the things out.” She put it back, but asked once more if she could just please see the pretty things in the box one more time. I sighed and opened it, taking out both fish this time. She peered in to see the shells, then carefully turned the fish over in her hands, admiring them with wide, blue eyes.
“They are so pretty! You should put them out for decoration.”
“Can I put them in my room as decoration?”
“No. I want you to put them back now. I let you see them, now let’s put them away.”
“But why do you keep them in the box?”
Sighing heavily, I admitted, “Because they were Uncle Charlie’s and I miss him very much.”
“But he is in heaven now,” she said.
“Yes, I know. But these things are special to me and I don’t want anything to happen to them.”
“But we all miss him and they are special to all of us. We would never let anything happen to them.”
In my selfish mourning, I had not thought of this. Initially, I took them because it was my kids who always admired them while he was living. I actually never paid them much attention until after his death. But in my own grief I had forgotten that and locked them away, taking from them the very reason I had kept them in the first place. Needless to say, I was greatly humbled by my young daughter.