Imagine the setting: among the redwoods, on Jonah’s huge deck, blue sky, the sun bright, a gentle breeze. Jonah and I sitting in Adirondack chairs, Amelie on Jonah’s lap, her lithe nine-year-old body softening into his chest.

The three of us are talking, the others—Poppy, Anya and Stephen off elsewhere. I don’t remember, not really, what we were talking about. Perhaps our plans for the afternoon, or dinner. Or Jonah might well have been telling a story about Amelie, which, he does often, one of his favorite ways of showing her how much he loves her. Yes, I think that was it: he was telling a story about leaving Amelie home while he did an errand, and when he returned after 45 minutes, she had already read over 100 pages of her book.

This is taking place during Covid, so while I am enjoying this interlude, this lovely moment of intimacy, I’m aching to have Amelie perched on my lap, or if not on my lap, close enough that I can touch her. It’s now been six months since I’ve been able to hug her or Poppy, and my yearning, far from dissipating, continues to intensify.

Amelie is the big sister. She is also the calmer of my two granddaughters, the practical one, the problem solver. Poppy is more expressive, her reactions, both positive and negative, intense. I worry that Amelie carries the older-sister burden of setting an example and keeping the peace.

I say this because I don’t remember what led Jonah to say what he did that afternoon. It might well be that I mentioned an incident between the two girls. Or initiated a conversation about “feelings” and the importance of expressing them. What preceded has become a blur. But every word that Jonah spoke, I recall.

While I would so love to quote him, that would feel like a betrayal. His words were meant for Amelie, not a wider audience. But for several minutes, there under the towering redwoods, he talked to her about his relationship with me when he was growing up, especially in high school. And he told her that if she ever had something that was bothering her, something she wanted to talk about, she should come to me. He told her I was a good listener and problem solver.

It’s not all that often that as parents, we are rewarded for our parenting by our children. By this I certainly don’t mean that raising children doesn’t offer rewards. It offers countless moments of beaming pride, when we are so grateful to be related to the being we brought into this world. I mean that our children complimenting us as parents is a rare occurrence—at least in my world.

Thanks to Jonah, and to Covid, I now own one of those moments to hold on to forever. Without Covid, I doubt Jonah, Amelie and I would have been granted that interlude of calm and beauty under the redwoods. We would have had guests, or projects, or obligations. We have all slowed down a bit because of Covid, and I believe that interlude was a result of this slowing down.

It was also a gift of Jonah, who found the perfect moment, in a perfect setting to choose the perfect words–that traveled straight from him into my heart.

Along the Arlington


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