Pirates and Princesses

Early in the morning today Wally and I came quietly into the living room to watch the light on the treetops. There is that magical hour when just the tips are lit up and look much brighter green than the rest of the tree. When Wally was younger it was miserable to keep him from making noise but now I kind of like that the neighbors are sleeping and the early hours have that hushed quality. I said Wally needed to take care of his little garden (plants in the window). He happily filled up the watering can. "All princesses are gardeners," he said, perched on tip toes to reach the hanging plant. 

He asked me for paints. I was hungry then and trying to get to my work plus I didn't know if we even had any paints. So I huffed a little and he kept pressing and the two of us went searching around for the dried up ends of paints from little projects. We couldn't find any green at all but I left him there by the window painting on a notebook with the mostly dried up paints and he really did keep looking out at the trees as he painted. And he stayed quiet.

"I catched the light for you," he said a little while later, holding out the notebook to me like an offering, the page still wet with big globs of yellow on the blue he used for trees.

The light has changed already now, just before 8. It's flattened out. He is watching Disney Jr and I'm trying to work. The baby is whining in the back with Alex.

"You can dress up and send your picture in and it might be on TV," Wally calls from the other room, very excited.

"Really?" I come in, eating a muffin standing up.

"Yeah - You can be 'anything you want to be'", he is singing it, some kind of Disney slogan.

"Wow, neat." I turn to go back to my work.

"So I can be a pirate or a princess," he says and I nod.

"Okay I'm going back to my work now," I take a sip of tea. Still way too hot. I have come though to really like hot drinks on hot days. Though today is cooler after the rain. It is supposed to be more reasonable, a high of only 91.

"Maybe I should be a pirate because it might look awkward if I'm a princess," Wally says quietly, but I can't make out the tone of his voice.

I looked at him, trying to figure out his face. I felt sad but I couldn't tell if he did. I had that sort of lump in the throat but I could only think to say, "Oh", and I didn't know what expression to put into it. Like questioning, or resigned, or "Oh okay great" or what. Was the sadness for the people (maybe Wally, who knows) who have to feel awkward their whole lives being who they want to be? Or sadness for the memory of a 3-year-old boy who thought it was perfectly okay to march around in a purple tutu? I don't know if it was tied to gender issues at all. It's funny to have the feeling itself and not know what brought it there. Was it sadness more generally, a quick gathering of nostalgia for that soon to be lost world of early childhood, that lost world of princesses tending to their gardens in the early morning light, I don't know.


  1. The magic, ephemeral early morning light whose mirror you might catch that very evening, or indistinguishably different sister arriving the next dawn. While the magic of early childhood lasts longer, it too passes too soon. If you're lucky, you might get another look at that magic in your own descendants in a year or a few, or perhaps in a generation. But unlike dawn, which you can only wait for, the magic of early childhood is right there to be seen every day, if you look beyond your blood line.


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