My son looks up at the courthouse flag. “It’s halfway down. Someone died…”
He stares out the rain-splattered window as I concentrate on parallel parking. “Oh, I know. It’s for Boston. They’ll leave it down one day for each person who died.”
He’s certain of this, as he is of so many things these days. His questions have largely gone beyond me – the intricacies of the stock market, the distance of new planets. In their places are statements.
“They did that with Colorado, too.”
How odd, I think, to be nine-years old and already have multiple mass shootings and acts of terror as a point of common reference. I try not to think: how awful. I try to be curious, to touch in with my own murky and yet emotion-laden memories of Watergate and Uganda and the Munich Olympics.
I wonder how “Boston” is settling in him and remember a conversation with a friend that morning in which she told me about everyone in their church writing down their fears and then burning them. She was surprised by some of her kids’ fears.
“What are you afraid of?” I ask him – again, curious, not fearful of what he might say.
His answer is unhesitant: “Spiders.”
“Anything else?” He names some more bugs. “Anything human made?”
He thinks and thinks. Then shrugs. “No. There’s really nothing as scary as spiders.” He gives me a look to say duh.
“Do you think everyone is afraid of something?” I ask – and this time I do have agenda.
He is unsure. So I come in with my grown up answer. Yes, I think everyone is. A lot of people are afraid to be alone – and for many of us this may be the greatest fear of all.
His face gets wide with surprise, his eyebrows arch up as though I just told him the salary of a professional athlete or the amount of space trash orbiting earth.
“How could anyone be alone?” he asks. He cannot fathom being totally unattached, floating alone in the world without connections.
This is when it occurs to me that all of the adults in his life have done an admirable job. That my son is brave and sweet, albeit with his 9-year old sass. That “spiders” may be about the happiest answer one could have.
And some day he might hold a spider on his fingertip with wonder.