This I Believe

Birdie - Las Vegas, New Mexico
Entered on May 10, 2007

All we want is someone to write for us

My youngest son, age 10, tossed his art supplies on the bed and crawled in after them. Graphite pencils, rubber eraser, ruler, a pad of heavy paper. I flicked the lamp switch, let the soft light compete with the moon’s full glow. He lay on his stomach, eyes close to paper, and pressed the ruler against the page. One thin line, then another, parallel. A comics panel. I sat, fluffed pillows behind my back and reached for my laptop. My son paused, asked me a question.

“Who are you writing about today?”

10 looked at his empty page, as if my answer might provide inspiration. I flipped the computer top back and pressed the button that gives it life.

“Oh, I don’t know. I have too many people to write about. I’ll probably write about you.”

The laptop gurgled, and I felt its warm footprint in my lap as it hustled awake. 10 stared at me, at my face in profile. His hair stuck out around his ears, and I thought about winter, how hair never hibernates the way our hearts do.

“Mom? Who writes about you?”

I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it. I almost told him about friends who mention me in passing, in short prayer. But that’s not what he meant. He wanted to know who described my scowl on dry afternoons, who wondered why I love grapefruit more than any other citrus, who transferred my uneven skin tone to page, my penchant for singing off-key to every Lyle Lovett song, the way my hair snarls overnight, all my spoken, secret dreams.

Nobody does these things. I don’t think anyone notices me these days, not enough to write when I’m not looking. That answer wasn’t right, either, so I kept mouth clamped tight. 10 shifted his eyes to his paper. He began sketching a penguin, an action penguin with a knit ski cap, one wing raised in excitement.

“Hey. We both tell stories, right? I write them. You draw them.”

10 nodded. He added old-fashioned skis, a naked tree, a snow angel in the shape of a fat bird.

“It’s our job to write about people. Some of the people I write about have no one to tell their story. But I have someone. Me! And you! We can write about people who need us, and we can write about each other.”

He added another penguin to the page, a tall female with eyes almond and shrewd. My eyes. I smiled though my heart wanted to break.

“Mom, sometimes all we want is someone to write for us.”

So here I sit, telling another story about 10 as he presses me into the page, gives me wings of charcoal, wings that sweep across three panels, lift me into heaven.