James awoke to find Keeper sitting patiently beside his bed, watching him. The familiar hum of the lawn mower drifted in from the open windows and James realized it was Saturday. Saturdays meant freedom and he dressed quickly and hurried down the stairs, intent on getting outside. He had dreamed of the trees again last night and hoped to spend his day exploring the woods as he had become accustomed to doing on the weekends, when his time was his own. Grabbing a muffin from the kitchen counter, James bounded out the back door and set off across the lawn. He noticed his mother coming out of the greenhouse and he waved to her. She smiled.
“I see you found my muffins,” Jane called to him. “Come here and see what else I’ve got.”
Keeper followed James toward the garden and lay down in a patch of sunshine just outside the greenhouse door.
“Look, James. They’re finally ready for planting.” Jane held out a tray of seedlings, beaming.
James had been right…she had been thrilled to find the garden and the greenhouse when they first moved in. As soon as the weather began to warm she started the task of cleaning them up and preparing them for planting. James had helped her empty the greenhouse tables of the old, dead flowers and fill the planting boxes with fresh dirt. On a warmer day he had even helped her scrub the windows with a sponge and a bucket of soapy water “to make sure the sun could get in” she had said. But it wasn’t work, like it might have otherwise sounded. Jane made it fun, squirting James with the hose and laughing when he squirted her back. Jane made everything fun.
“We can put the beans and the squash in now,” she said, “but the pumpkins should stay in the greenhouse for another week or so.”
Planting a garden was Jane’s best attempt to give her son roots…some reassurance that they belonged here, that they were somehow attached to this place, anchored here, even if only for a time. But Jane understood that her son, at eleven, was far more interested in exploring the woods with his dog than in planting seedlings with his mother. He had helped her so much already, and they had had fun together…but this was his time to be a boy and to run and climb trees and whatever else it was he did out there in the woods.
“You and Keeper have a big day planned?” she asked.
James was reluctant to share the secrets of his adventures even with Jane, perhaps especially with Jane. She was his mother, after all, and he feared she would worry about those things that were the most fun. He didn’t want the burden of her worry and for that reason he thought it best not to share.
“Not really,” he lied. But Jane knew her son well and she smiled at him…a knowing smile.
Reconsidering, he decided to tell her about the tallest tree — the one that stood above all the rest in the forest. How its branches started low to the ground, low enough to reach, and stacked like ladder steps along the trunk. His eyes sparkled with excitement as he spoke about it and Jane was happy for her son. Happy to see him so happy.
“This I’ve got to see,” she insisted with great enthusiasm. And suddenly James was eager to show her. Jane sat the tray of seedling down at the edge of the garden and followed him into the woods.
©Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.
**This story inspired the creation of more art. Take a look. But first…
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