Two years ago this month, the moving van had just pulled away when my third-grade son arrived home from the last day at his familiar school. His book bag was crammed full of school-desk supplies, and his heart was choked with moving-day melancholy. Soon we would pile into the car with his three siblings, the cat, and all the stuff still scattered along the floor of our just- about-emptied house and start over in a different town with a new school.
One of my son's struggles with this move involved a girl he'd had a crush on since first grade. He'd never told her; in fact, he'd barely talked to her. But as our moving date had drawn closer, he had decided to declare himself by asking her to roller skate during his last school skating party. Unfortunately, he'd misjudged his time at the rink, and his chance had skated away. Now he agonized that he'd blown it, that she'd never know how he felt.
As we quietly talked on the kitchen floor - the table was in a moving van rolling due north - I whimsically suggested he write her a note, maybe send her a flower. Surely a two-year-long crush merited some recognition.
"A flower?" he said with the skepticism of youth.
But I had his attention, so I quickly improvised with motherly wisdom. "Send her flowers. Then she'll remember you even when she's 80 years old."
That was all it took. He wasn't ready to be forgotten by this person he had elevated to "best girl" status for nearly a quarter of his life. The flowers would tangibly acknowledge this relationship and build a memory for closure; then he could move on.
IN that empty-room starkness, he sat on the floor and composed a short note telling her she was his first crush. On the way out through the garage, he spied a couple of peacock feathers from zoo visits gone by that the movers had overlooked. My son said these might add interest and brought them to the florist shop. There he picked out a pink star-gazer lily and asked the floral designer to arrange it with his feathers. He gave strict instructions to deliver the letter and flower the following Monday - three days after we'd left town. He cushioned his announcement with the safety net of time and miles.
The day he started his new school, her thank-you card arrived. He tore open the envelope and devoured the message in typical third-grade-fashion: first silently reading it to himself, his lips moving through the words. Then he read it aloud for all of us to hear: "Goodbye and good luck. So sorry that you're leaving, just don't know what to say except that you're wished happiness along the way. Thank you for the flowers, I like them a lot. Your friend, Kelsi." He returned the prized card to its envelope, eventually placing it among his special keepsakes.
The warmth in his eyes told me his risk of declaration had been worth it. The man inside the boy peeked out at me, and this memory from my growing son's life blazed into my heart.