A bag of dirt. A quart-sized, zip-loc bag of dirt slumped on my kitchen counter. In another time and place, I would have swiftly picked up the bag and threw it in the trash with no reservations. I would not have given any thought to it’s importance. Instead, I would have assumed that it served no purpose and that it’s best home was somewhere other than snuggled up next to my toaster. However, after enrolling in the extended life course of raising a boy for the past thirteen years, I’ve been taught to see a bag of dirt with different eyes. I now might see part of an animal home that has taken up residence with me without my prior approval, an integral part of a plastic army guy battle, an archeological dig, or maybe a “science” experiment involving worms and bugs.
So, before moving the bag of dirt, I thought I should consult my young teenager. The bag had been sitting for three days. Each time I thought to inquire, I realized he was biking with friends, meeting buddies to play basketball, or off on a boy adventure of some sort. I moved it’s placement several times. Now it’s by the coffee maker. Occasionally, he will ask to make a small cup of coffee. Maybe, he will see it and let me in on it’s secret purpose.
I started to wonder if this bag of dirt belongs to him, or if it was left here by our smaller neighbor friends that he babysits some afternoons. Maybe, he’s planning to make a shoe-boxed size Civil War re-enactment complete with soldiers, tents, and tiny cots…but probably not. Maybe he’s got other soil samples stashed other places that he’s going to test for phospherous or something like that.
One time, a while back, he brought in the dirt left after he’d used all the worms from a container for bait and wanted to know if he could keep it in a box and just keep adding to it. He figured if he ever needed to bury a treasure, he’d be all set. As I continued to ponder all the uses a young boy might have for dirt, panick began to set in. Had all the magic of mudpies disappeared? Did I let all the wonderment of his childhood years float beyond me without savoring any of it? Should I burrow this bag of dirt into my under-the-bed box spilling over with finger paintings and Mother’s day cards with stapled-on stars? Maybe this was my last chance to bottle a little whisp of childhood magic…
Just as I officially hit the “stop the world” button, and was about scout out an airtight, low-moisture, museum-like setting for the magic bag of dirt, my son entered and sat at the kitchen island.
“What’s wrong, Mom – you look scared.”
“Oh… nothing, I’m just tired (from stopping the world, of course)…hey, I was wondering what this bag of dirt is for and where should we keep it?”
“This bag of dirt, right here that I’m holding in my hand. It’s been on the counter for three days, so I thought you must have plans for it.”
“Oh… yeah. I just like dirt. I got it out of where Dad is digging up a bush or something. It looks like clay, and I… just like dirt and stuff… I guess…”
Crisis averted. No need to stop the world. He just likes dirt. It’s not over… yet.