It’s turning out to be kind of a crazy summer around here.
Z. turned six two weeks ago. He’d been planning his birthday for a year, and actively fixating on it for at least six months, encouraged by the constant flow of birthdays in his kindergarten class.
After extensive negotiations we decided to go camping, and that I’d go into a nearby town and find him a cheesecake. And I’d get him lobster. So we went camping. I had contacted the Barnard General Store, who ordered and cooked lobsters for us at a ridiculously cheap price. I picked them up and brought them back to our campsite to eat with corn and potatoes for dinner.
I had been worried about the boys’ sensitive little hearts. This was going to be the first time that they had eaten something while actually looking at its face. I placed a lobster on each plate, and started helping the boys crack them open to get to the meat. After I had removed a claw and handed it to E. to start to get the meat out of, he took it, pinched the lobster’s still-attached antenna eand started singing,
Why are you pinching yourself, why’d you do that?! Why you pinching yourself, huh, huh?!
And cackling wildly. I realized they were made of tougher stuff than I had given them credit for.
After dinner it was on to dessert. I hadn’t been able to find a cheesecake in even one of Woodstock’s precious little bakeries and stores. So I had bought gelatin and sugar and cream cheese and, along with crushed up pretzels and fresh cherries we had back at camp, turned it into one of those silly no-bake ones.
And I got out the candles and we sang and there were presents and then we tried the cake. I thought it was pretty good, considering how it came into being.
Z. tried it, and then set me straight, looking earnestly at me and saying, Mommy, I wanted a cheesecake like this (shows me both thumbs up), but this one is like this (thumbs sideways, reproachful look). I think I sort of mumbled something about how it may not have been perfect but wasn’t it cool that he had a mom who cared enough to make him cheesecake? While camping? With no oven?
Whatever. He was right. The only cool thing about it was that it actually happened.
And then a few days later, just about the time I had gotten the camping stuff put away, the boys hit me with this beaut as we were leaving the Y after swimming:
Mommy, when you die do you want to be all burned up or buried in the ground in a coffin?
What the hell? Can they hear the hypochondria streaming between my ears? My mental reviews of the state of my will because my foot hurts and PT isn’t working and my restless leg syndrome is getting weird again?
I asked them if they really wanted to know. They assured me they did.
I could have done what the textbooks say, which would have been to answer the question as it was asked and then shut up.
Instead, I took a different route.
Instead I said something like,
Well, you know how I really care about other people and about recycling and taking care of planet Earth, right? See, you can be what’s called an organ donor when you’re done with your body and that’s really cool because they take like your eyes or your liver and they give it so someone else so they can use it. And you can even let people learn from you after you’re done living by letting them use your body for experiments and stuff and then they get to be really good doctors and help other people and that’s super great because it’s like you helped those people too. And then when everything useful is gone I want to be all burned up and put on the compost pile at cohousing so I can be part of the garden forever. Cool, right?
You’re probably as surprised as I was to learn that they didn’t think it was cool at all. They started wailing and yelling with their eyes all wide and welling up and everything, and then they swore they’d use swords and guns to defend my dead body so it could be in the ground in a coffin like it should be. And that they could put their own coffins next to mine when they died. And that we’d all spend eternity lying in our boxes next to where their dad buried his dead pet rats.
I’m pretty sure I agreed to all this.
After the crappy cheesecake, it only seemed fair.