I stood on the playground as Carter rode circles around me on his bike, a skill he had just acquired and accomplished without the use of training wheels. I thought back to growing up, when a bike was the only way to get around. Our home town was situated on the side of a hill. Going down was great. Going across was okay, but I could take it.
I’d avoid going up hill at all costs.
Carter pulled his bike to the side and hopped off.
The playground is with his elementary school. Someone had thrown hundreds of sheets of colored paper in the dumpster next to where I’d parked. Storm clouds gathered to the west and, as we watched, the wind picked up a sheet of white paper and blew it to Carter’s feet.
He had found a small pencil on the ground and sat down, drawing shapes and figures on the paper. I sat across from him as he worked, hand moving in loops and swirls, green eyes checking to see if I was watching.
It was a vast difference from the night before.
An instance had grown to a conflict, to emotions and words, anger and tears.
“What are you drawing?” I asked.
It was the shape of an animal with four backward L feet.
“A turtle,” Carter said.
“What’s his name?”
“Mister M.” He drew a big M on the turtle to make his point.
A second piece of paper blew out of the dumpster, danced on the wind, and landed next to me. I grabbed it and passed it over to Carter. We traded papers.
He started on a stick figure, paused, and looked at my face.
“Are you drawing me?” I asked.
“Yep,” he said as he colored in a black shirt on my stick torso.
“I’m sorry about last night,” I said. “We’re going to do better. As a family.”
“It’s okay.” He said.
In a moment, he had shown me grace. The sun cut through the clouds and he squinted against it. He finished my stick portrait and handed it to me.
“Keep it,” he said.
I will, Carter. I will.