I got a surprise Mother’s Day gift. It made me cry. It was about a 9 yr. old boy, and magic.
My grandson, born the exact hour and exact minute I was, lives in Taiwan. I saw him for the first time when he was 5 mos. old. ‘He just woke,’ his parents said. ‘He’ll cry when he sees you.’ He turned toward me when I sat on the bed, and smiled.
As a small infant, he looked like a little Buddha. My friends agreed, and called him Buddha Baby when they asked about him.
Later I called him sparkly little boy for his enthusiasm, laughter, wonder of the world, and mind-blowing wisdom that left my heart effervescent, and my Facebook friends saying Wow.
He’s loved reading and making art since I can remember. When he was 7, a package of watercolor pens was his fav Christmas present. The next year, a set of 29 Magic Treehouse books. Before the travels and history of Magic Treehouse, his story passions ran in this order: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and the Avengers. Regular kid stuff, until you see the deeper messages. They spoke to his soul.
He’s been a happy kid. Animals, people, and super-heroes in his drawings all sport big smiles. He simply can’t make them look mean. One time I noticed what looked like a grimace on a villain’s face, and he loudly sighed with a ‘finally.’
It’s been three years since we had an in-person hug. Let’s just say sometimes things happen that break your heart, and break something between you & others, and tho you tried, there’s not much to do about it. The last visit was wonderful, tho, ’til it wasn’t. And he’s stayed in touch.
For two years he sent weekly postcards. After that, he rose before his parents, & signed on every week to Skype. Now, it’s twice a month. What’s happened is third grade in Taiwan.
With classroom and homework, his work week is often 40 hr. + There’s mandatory sports days, and four intense ‘final’ exam periods per year. There’s art, writing, and storytelling competitions and events. Medals and statues to earn for competitions, the most books read, best behavior, and best student. He shows me his medals. When I expressed surprise at homework over summer vacation, he shrugged and said “It’s the Chinese way.” A part of me goes ‘Jeepers, he’s only in third grade!’
Culture comes up more and more these days. “In Chinese culture…,” he’ll start before he shares his holidays or answers a question. I listen. I want to understand. I know his world’s different.
Then there was the turn. And it was hard for me to hear.
One night I asked what he was doing for fun. “I don’t have fun,” he said. “I study, do schoolwork all the time.” He’d just finished a round of final exams, so I thought perhaps it was a momentary thing. I know he and his parents ride bikes, go to movies, visit farms and other places as a family.
I asked another time if he and his friends played together when not in school. I know he has good friends. When he said no, I asked if that was culture or because they were busy like him. ‘We don’t do that here,’ he said. ‘It’s not Chinese culture.”
When I asked later about books, he said he didn’t have time to read. On art, ‘I draw when I’m bored.’ I was stunned. His sparkly magic was getting squished!
I sent a card illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (see it above). I love her magical images, and simple, yet profound messages. On the card, an elephant balances on a ring, holds a feather in its trunk. “I found this feather for you. It’s perfect for the wind,” the caption reads. Spread flat, the painting continues. The elephant now tiny, flying high above a hawk, the feather still in its trunk. On intuition, I chose a raven feather from my stacks, slipped it in.
I can’t remember what I wrote. Only that he could fly on his imagination, and that it was a raven feather, rare to find. I left off how some believe ravens are sacred & full of magic. His mother is devoutly Christian. After I mailed it, I worried on the feather being black, how that might be received by her.
The other day his father (my son) sent a video of my sparkly-hearted boy at a storytelling event, with a note: Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s where the magic comes in.
The story he told, complete with gestures and different voices, was about a long ago time when people lived in darkness with no sun to help things grow, and they called the ‘mighty black bird,’ Raven (!), for help. How raven brought them two balls of light that stuck to the ‘walls of the sky,’ becoming the sun and the moon. How the people still celebrate raven for his kindness. At the end of the video, you can hear someone say Wow.
I don’t know, for sure, if the feather I sent played a part in him choosing that story. And it doesn’t matter. Because to me it was a message…our connection’s still here. And he’s still connected to that Big Soul of his. It’s not snuffed, yet.
We’re all so very human. We carry lifetimes of stuff . And still, I think what I feel is what so many of us mothers feel…trusting our heart-centered intentions will take root, with hope they flower and fruit in a beautiful way. And perhaps how we see or wish our own mother’s are, or were….listening, giving gifts without judgement or expectation, trusting we’ll find the gem offered. I like to think it, anyway.
Summer 2016, the last time I saw him. It was like holding a jar of stars.
Tell me in the comments what Mother’s Day means, or has meant, for you.
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