In some ways, our two months off flowed quickly and easily, following the current of summers past. We did a lot of what we do every year:
we celebrated lots of family,… …and we celebrated lots of dinosaurs, too, of course! Finn began by joining his friend Ethan for two weeks at “Jurassicamp,” a daily adventure that turned out to be a lot less paleontology-oriented than we had hoped. We stepped up the intensity with serious dinosaur animatronics at the Detroit Zoo…
…and to the green walks and shallow, cool creek by Aba and Abuelo’s house in Milford:
At the end of July, as always, we headed back to the pool and “lazy river” at the same Orlando resort:
And at home we just played like always — with toys, legos, and board games — but there were new things to learn, too. Finn discovered that losing can be fun through Telestrations, where a scribbled beard became a mummy became a striped prisoner became the bars of a jail; and he learned that fun can be tiring through our step up from Monopoly Jr. to the more complex Monopoly-style DINO-OPOLY, with bones and museums instead of houses and hotels. The first time Finn had to sell back his bones and mortgage his beloved Giganotosaurus, his eyes filled up with tears. But then the laughter started, and he was cry-laughing — or craffing, as Daddy calls it — because a three-hour long board game played past bedtime was new territory, and we were all nearly extinct.
Finn also ventured into bigger boy literary territory this summer with books by Raold Dahl. The Dinosaur Cove series finished, he needed something new to really love, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was just the place to start. Chocolate rivers and candy grass? Definitely! I adored hearing the excitement in his voice when he read to me from that gloriously crazy novel — but I did not adore the fact that he followed his reading with an imitation of one of the book’s atrociously behaved children. “I’m like Violet Beauregarde!” he said one afternoon in the car, and when I turned around to look at him, he had already (as she does) put a piece of gum behind his ear and, accidentally, also into his hair. “It’ll come out, right?” he asked. “Sure. With scissors,” I said, trying to sound stern but fighting back the urge to smile. Even though I wasn’t happy about the wad of gum in his hair, it still seemed so surprisingly funny and touching to me that while reading such a big boy book, he pulled such a little boy move. It reminded me of how young he still is, how easily a six-year-old blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Finn seemed astonished that his moment of silly play had consequences in the real world.
But the hardest and most serious real world lesson learned this summer was about loss. Just last weekend we lost one of our pet chickens, our sweet Janie, who had been back and forth from the vet with a crop problem. Because she’d needed extra care from us, we were closer to her than to the other chickens, and Finn spent hours holding her in his lap, petting her soft, speckled, gold-brown-black feathers.
We were all heart-broken to lose her, but Finn was devastated. “There’ll be no more Janie!” he cried. “She’ll be gone forever!”
Still, in between tears and hugs, as we spoke about burying her in the backyard, he wanted to be involved, suggesting on his own that we put her out by the coop near our other chickens, Vera and Hopster. Afterward, Finn wrote her name on a stone we placed on top of the dirt.
“How long will I feel sad?” he asked me later. “It will get easier with time,” I told him. “But I’ll never be quite the same,” he said sadly. And even though he seems to have recovered from the initial shock of Janie’s absence, I know he thinks of her often, touching the feather we kept or just mentioning her in conversation. A couple of days ago, Finn woke up and said with a smile, “I dreamed Janie was flying.” In real life, because her crop problem kept her too top heavy to even fly into her nesting box with the other birds, she would instead use a shallow ladder to slowly make her ascent. But Finn’s dream made her lighter, infusing reality with fantasy. Although he knew the difference between the two and understood that Janie was gone, he also learned somehow that healing and growth depend upon not just accepting reality, but envisioning something better. What a lift it was to picture Janie in flight. What a lift it was to see Finn smile.