As I pulled a load of clothes out of the dryer, something small and plastic fell to the floor. I stooped to pick it up. It was a red oval “jewel,” a small craft gem that Raphael had given me sometime during the week. During Sunday school a few weeks ago he’d somehow pocketed a fistful of these precious gems, and he’s been doling them out to me ever since.
“Here, Mom,” he said one morning at breakfast, “this one is for you, because you like green.” He pressed a round green jewel into my hand. I thanked him, kissed his head, and slipped it into my bathrobe pocket.
As I sat at the computer one afternoon, he sidled up to me.
“Give me your hand,” he murmured. I held out my hand and he dropped several flower-shaped jewels in my palm. “These are for you because they’re beautiful and you’re beautiful.” I thanked him, kissed his head, and set the jewels down in a huddle around the base of the monitor.
“These are for you,” he said as I cleared the lunch dishes, reaching out to me with a tight fist filled with something. I held out my hand and he dropped in three blue hearts. “They mean that I love you.” I thanked him, kissed his head, and tucked the hearts behind the fruit bowl on the counter.
The thing is, I am in an endless (and losing) battle against the clutter around here. There are so many choices about what to toss and what to save. Little plastic gems just don’t seem like something to save. After a few days I surreptitiously swept the hearts into the trash, hid them under a butter wrapper. The flowers were hidden in an empty grapefruit rind. The green jewel was tucked in the bathroom trash, under an empty toilet paper tube. There is only so much stuff one woman can be expected to keep in her life.
Whenever Raphael asks about some treasure he’s bestowed upon me – be it jewel or handmade crown or drawing or that one special stick – if I’ve already disposed of it, I look around vaguely and say, “Hmm…I’m not sure WHERE that is…”
He thinks I’m just foolish and forgetful.
Tonight I picked up that little red jewel, cloudy from its trip through the wash, and turned it over in my hand for a moment. Tre used to bring me treasures – pop tops and leaves, paper airplanes and notes. Max used to bring me gifts – often they were living things, insects and the like. Neither of them would dream of doing such a thing now.
I accept these gifts from a still-adoring Raphael, and cast them away when he’s not looking because I can’t seem to remember how quickly he’s moving away from me.
Raphael is right.
I’m foolish and forgetful.