As I worked the garden on Sunday, I kept seeing a little head popping up here and there. Even though I would call out by saying, “I see you”, in a sing-song voice, I got no response. The head just ducked down hoping it was a bluff. Or, it was part of the early training men know intuitively – deny, deny, deny. Either way, he wasn’t going to out himself, but rather try another strategy. Next thing I knew, he’s came around the house and stalked me from around the Southern Magnolia. I saw him, but tried to ignore him.
He carries a wooden gun, a gun his Uncle Matt carved for him. Wearing a hunting hat and his Gap down vest, he looks the part of a precision military man. He was in his element. I’m surprised he didn’t go to the grill and take the ashes to wipe all over his face. I guess he hasn’t figured that one out yet…my lips are sealed.
My husband and I really don’t know where he gets this. We neither encourage it nor discourage it. I can say this, we are not the example. His first toys were guns that he either made into from Lego’s or re-purposed from a plastic golf club or built from a paper towel roll and some cereal boxes. All were elaborate designs. I will never underestimate what can be made with some recyclable paper products and duct tape. This has been going on since day one. No doubt, if I paid more attention, I would have noticed his baby blanket converted into a pup tent where he could bark orders to his plush toy bunny – or perhaps using the bunny as target practice.
The stalker, I’m referring to is No. 3, Michael Aster Philbrook. His initials spell MAP. It was my hope this would predestine him to travel. Lily’s initials spell LAP, I guess I didn’t think through the predestine process well enough with her, cuz I don’t like where this could lead. Lara Rose’s predestined initials have already proven true. LRP, a jumbled mass of letters that relate to the state of her bedroom, a jumbled mass of clothes all over the floor, lamp, desk, and curtain rod. The bed linens are in a twisted heap. Drawers and closet door open to reveal, clothes half hung, if at all.
There is alot of good that comes from a child with military procession. He says yes ma’am, no ma’am, opens the door for me, anticipates his, mine, and everyone elses next move. The others are fond of saying, yeah, why, or nothing at all.
Aster worked with me in my clients’ garden on Friday. I try to schedule my workdays around the City of Raleigh’s yard waste pickup schedule. Only the second time in this garden and he knows I’m racing the clock to get what I need cleaned up and at the curb before pick up time. As I cut back the bed for the winter, he efficiently takes armloads full to the yard waste cans and then takes the cans to the curb. He’s 7. At one point, he hears a noise and tells me to, “Chop, Chop” telling me he hears the yard waste truck coming and we need to get the last of the debris to the curb. “Chop, Chop”, I guess that is how I sound. Just sounds different coming from a child still in single digits.
We play the stalking game for a while; he gets better at it, I get worse. At the point he actually catches me off guard, I think, enough is enough and give him a job to do. I teach him how to fill the “Dinner Bell” bluebird feeder with mealworms.
I show him where I keep them in the refrigerator, how I have them double sealed, lest they get out among the rest of the food in the fridge. Yes, I know they are dormant in there, but I can’t take any chances.
We go to the feeder, open the bags, and put a few in on the tray. Immediately, he says, “These aren’t worms, worms don’t have feet.” Who knew? I never looked close enough at a mealworm to notice, but sure enough they do have feet. I later google to find that a mealworm is actually the larval form of the mealworm beetle.
He now knows this is his job. Another job added to what he does already, set the table for dinner, take the recycle material to the containers, take the containers to the curb on Wednesday evenings, make his bed, clean his room, pack school snacks. None of which I officially assigned him, just chores he has taken on himself. To get Lily out the door in time, he will even carry her book bag to the van, ask if she needs other help. One day, I even found him brushing her hair to help. That was when I realized, I was raising a gentlemen; he was a good as they get. Such a sweet little boy too. I said, “Buddy, I’ll finish her hair, you go take out the recycle.” “Yes ma’am,” he says, I’m on it.