When I reached into my pocket this morning to stuff my hands into their dubious warmth, my fingers met the uneven shape of a rock, blunt and bumpy on one end, jaggedly sharp on the other. I blinked in sleepy surprise for a moment, before smiling. Such is the life of a parent of a young child – odd things in pockets at odd times.
Victor’s fascination with rocks began after he turned two and slightly before the halfway point of his year. These days, our walks home from school have developed something of a ritual quality – I pick him up from school, settle him in the stroller with a drink and a snack and then we go fast until we reach the quieter streets near our apartement complex. Usually he starts asking to walk a little bit before we get there, but there are so many busy streets to cross, that I repeatedly reassure him that he can walk, “after we cross the big road” – meaning the highway. In the quiet dark on the far side, I let him out of the stroller and almost immediately, he starts searching for a rock to accompany his walk. “My rock! Where rock?” he says, round-eyed, hands outstretched and his little legs pump up and down as he trots along the edge of the sidewalk, away from the road, where there is a bed of shrubberies, a boundary between a parking lot and the street. There, he fishes for rocks, the cast up chunks from street re-pavings and decorative pebbles that cover the roots of the shrubs.
Once found, the rock accompanies him almost all of the way home, unless he needs his hands to play with something else, whereupon he hands the rock up to me with an imperious, “Hold it, Mama! HOLD it!”
Which is how the rock got into my pocket this morning for my walk to work.
I curled my palm around it, the sharper edge pressing against the insides of my fingers, its surface warmed by the heat of my hand. A rock for my walk, an inadvertant gift from my son, a little piece of him to carry with me into the rest of my day.