A couple of months ago, the very shy 9-year old and his not quite as shy 7-year old cousin knocked on my back door. My back door is my office door behind which you're likely to find me anytime between 6:30am and 5:30pm.
He knows he can knock because last October I told him he could knock and assured his mother that I actually liked the lunatic soundtrack of MR straight off the bus. And I do, by the way. I like it very much. In an otherwise silent building where people may walk on eggshells to avoid disturbing the peace, the sound is a disruption from my very much self-imposed hyper-focused isolation. It's a slap upside the head with a joy stick. Branch. Whatever.
While MR may run wild on the great lawn behind the building, he doesn't make easy contact with adults and when forced he is tongue tied and frozen in place. I inadvertently worked on MR while the weather was still good enough to haul a chair and a book to the Northwest corner of the lawn, up against what remains of the forest. Unless it was raining, I exited my office at 5:30 and did my best to stay out of his way. Nobody needs an interloper disrupting the field of play.
We looked at each other periodically and I waved and called hello and eventually he waved back. We had a running joke about his unwillingness to wear shoes and if I mentioned that he was, in fact, actually wearing shoes he'd haul them off. I stopped mentioning his footwear when it got good and cold.
Schools and their fundraisers. I was that parent almost entirely unwilling to participate. I'd rather write a check and be done with it than inflict the endless catalogs of wrapping paper and chocolates on my office mates. I didn't have the time to march my children door to door and I certainly wasn't going to send them out alone. I wrote the check and tossed the catalogs with zero guilt but my children took those forms back to school with a single order. I don't know how they felt about it, but probably not great. No regrets, but I understand.
One day MR approached my chair and handed me a stack of catalogs. I wasn't sure what he was giving me or why because he was rendered speechless by the sheer effort of the approach and intent. I flipped through the top catalog and recognized the premise and I did not much feel like putting my book down and finding a checkbook. I asked him to go into my office and leave the catalogs on the bookcase just inside the door.
He did so.
I promised I'd get to it in twenty minutes.
Twenty minutes is a lifetime. He didn't go back to his game, he sat on the steps and waited so I got up and fetched the catalogs. I couldn't figure out how to order or pay for product and I didn't know his mother well enough to knock on their backdoor (which, by the way, is the entrance to an actual bedroom if you're not using the space as an office). I wrote what I wanted on a piece of paper and included my phone number. He disappeared into his house. I caught up with his mother a few days later and realized there'd been a website to order online but he wouldn't have had enough air in his lungs to point that out. She said not to worry, she'd placed the order with her own and I was aware that this was his first and only and that it was, indeed, a big fucking deal.
MR and I were friends.
During a February thaw, MR and AK were playing in a rapidly dissolving snow bank behind the apartment trash bins and then they were squatting down in edge of dirt driveway crud, clearly making something.
Later that afternoon, just before sunset there was a knock on my door. MR and AK stood three feet from the door holding a piece of concrete covered in chalk. AK said, I did the purple part! And I said, MR! That's amazing! Is it for me? Yes. For me.
I asked them to 'install' the artwork in the gravel by the door and had to explain install and artwork but they caught on pretty quick. It rained, it snowed, it rained again and despite the overhang, the block got wet and the chalk began to fade. I was sad. I really liked my art installation and hoped it would last long enough to be moved and reinstalled on the mountain.
About a week ago I asked MR and AK if they might be willing to freshen up the art. MR grinned and said, I'll paint it! I said, let's get it done! and promptly forgot about it.
A few mornings later I noticed the block was gone. He's up to something and maybe it will come back and maybe it won't. I had a dream about the block painted entirely white and my heart hurt. I was sorry I'd asked. Maybe I could have put a layer of something on top to keep the original work from fading. Too late. It was gone.
Yesterday at dusk they came looking for me. I wasn't out back, I was on the front sidewalk staring at the sky wishing the clouds away.
They came tearing around the corner in their socks which isn't unexpected for MR but AK is pretty good about staying dressed.
Come see! Come see, now!
I tore off after them, off the sidewalk and onto the saturated grass and they yelled:
WET! WET! WET!
MR might prefer to be barefoot but apparently he's not fond of wet socks.
He was yelling, over his shoulder, I DIDN'T HAVE ANY PAINT SO I FIXED IT ANYWAY!
And there it was, reinstalled in the gravel. Not the soft tentative, slightly random pastels of the original, but something bold and beautiful made with strong hands. Made with clear intention.
I gasped. AK noted that it had dots, and so it does.
I don't know which of us was or is more pleased, but MR and AK hooted once and bolted up the steps to the upper apartment and vanished inside. It occurred to me that they were already in for the night and the artwork was an after supper sort of project and they may have temporarily escaped to make the delivery.
I walked back around the building in my slippers which are better than socks, but not much.
I looked up at the sky and grinned. The clouds were gone and the wind had dropped and there is just so damn much magic in the world.
I've been told that the greatest form of 'taking' is the unwillingness to receive, or be given to. Extrapolated, the greatest form of giving may very well be the willingness to receive.
I see you, MR, and I expect you see me.