My three-year-old inks a black dot on his drawing of Wisconsin—a state neither of us has ever visited—and points to the pen mark: “Look. It’s the teeniest little bird you ever seed!” This begins his months-long litany of requests for tiny versions of everything: bananas fit for LEGO figures, diminutive saucepans, baby spades and hoes for a garden we don’t have.
The teeniest bird takes on a narrative of her own, nesting outside Sheboygan, fashioning herself a chic sofa and coffee table and new kitchen cabinets, my son claims, from his scissor-snipped hair as it’s blown off our apartment balcony in Indiana.
His demands escalate: elliptical machines, dairy cows, family sedans, and Dutch colonials, all in miniature. He waves his hand vaguely out the car window over mammoth sand dunes and Lake Michigan itself. He wants the whole universe of things one could own and places one could be, but scaled to him, made containable inside the 90-square-foot bedroom he shares with his brother, atop our counter with its vacant real estate measured in inches.
But what I want for this boy—the smallest child I’ve ever held, the boy who arrived home five pounds of brown hair and milk spit, who wears 18 month pants at almost four—is about the word he’s getting wrong in this equation: seed.
I don’t care what I’ve seen or he’s seen or what he will see. I care what’s germinating, even now: how he’s all microscopic radicle and cotyledon and plumule. How if he just takes a moment to open up to what’s below him—to think about the world of water and dirt and stone—he’ll push down taproots so vast, so voracious that he’ll connect with every fractured jawbone and shell casing this spent place has ever tried to hide.