Liam's Tree

Spring briefly hit the Northeast a little over a week ago. On that particular Friday it was 60 degrees.

“I want to play Wii!” “I want my DS!” Demands from the resident electronic tyrant. Liam. Stove kicking and wall bashing back up his claim, topped with a raspberry. Spitting, I call it.

“The sun is shining, so we are going outside.”

He has socks on. I just need to get shoes on him. He strikes out in the familiar “run from Mom” circle. Kitchen, dining room, toy room, living room, kitchen, dining room… I grab his shoes in my left hand, prop open the kitchen door, lock open the screen door, and wait. This reminds me all too much of corralling kicking young calves in the barnyard and getting them through a narrowing funnel created by gates onto the ramp up to a livestock trailer.

Moving my thoughts from the barnyard to the kitchen, I wait. But he detours onto the couch in the living room. “I’m not going!”

From a class I had taken the night before, I take the hint to let a child huff and puff without responding. I’ve already established the goal of going outside. Now we just need to move in that direction.

No words, I wrangle my calf bare-handed, and we edge closer to the open kitchen door, giving the stove one last kick. “I want my DS!”

“Sun’s shining.” I say this as if meaning that as long as the sun is shining the battery in the DS is dead.

Breaking the barrier of the four walls is all it took for the tirade to stop. “What a beautiful day, Mom!” he proclaimed as we put his shoes on while sitting on the top step. He was off. I closed the screen door. Mission accomplished.

I picked up sticks from our four-day wind and rain storm. Liam came over admiring a little evergreen branch he had found. “Mom, I’m going to help him grow!”

“That’s a great idea, Liam!”

He took it to the swing set and propped it against the leg with rocks. Then he disappeared into the house and reappeared with a cup of water. Trip after trip he watered the branch. Then we met on the steps and he said, “I’m giving it some juice.” Yes, indeed there was a squeezed apple juice box on the counter. I can live without one juice box. I went back to raking, still eyeing the trips back and forth.

Then the traffic stopped. Funny how noise and constant motion is OK. Silence, not so much.

I got to the screen door just in time to hear a big splash and “Oh man!” A pretty significant orange juice spill covered the counter, the cupboard doors, and the floor, nearly floating the cup and spoon on the floor. Amidst a perplexing array of evidence on the floor – a little jar of Mom’s homemade strawberry jam and the liquid soap dispenser – I casually asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m making food for my tree.”

“Wow, it should grow really well with this. Do you know who made it? Grandma.”

“Oh,” as he pumped another bit of soap into the plant food mixture in his glass: OJ, strawberry jam & hand soap.

No way, no how could I get upset. As messy as it may seem, there was much more creativity in making plant food than in pushing buttons on electronic gizmos. And we had accomplished the goal: The sun was shining, and we weren’t playing Wii.

I’m still contemplating the order of ingredients in the plant food. Was the spoon in the soap concoction before or after it was dipped into this precious little jam jar? Mentally counting the few jars of homemade jam left it the basement, driven out last summer by my family, I put the lid on and put it back in the fridge. I’ll test it another day. Or, just proclaim the remainder as plant food, another day.

Enjoying spring.