In them was all that remained in the world of these people, their entire lives crammed into boxes that would barely hold a twelve-pack.
“What should I write a song about” L asks. He’s 11 years old. He hates reading, school, and the cold. He loves music, skateboarding, and Rubik’s cubes.
I want to say: write about how much your parents love you, how safe our house feels on rainy nights, how strange it is to think of wars happening far, far away, how calming it is to have your hair smoothed by your mom. Write about the bright greenish blue color of your room, write about your puppy, write about the soft weight of a cat asleep on your quilt, write about the magic of clean clothes simply appearing, often folded, on your bed. Write about camping in Maine, about airplane trips, and about playing wide games in the neighbor’s yard with your grandparents and adorable cousin. Write about family movie picnics. Write about morning stories, Harry Potter movie marathons, making skateboard parks out of cardboard and duct tape. Write about spotting sunsets out the back window of the car. Write about the first time you got to eat by yourself at the grocery store cafe while I did the shopping. Write about your necktie phase, your green sweatshirt phase, your different-colored-sock phase. Write about hope, dreams, love, and kindness.
What I actually say: “Remember when _____ broke up with you and you were really sad? That’s the stuff of great music.”
And at first he looks at me like I’m evil and worthy only of the freezing attic in my twilight years. And then he looks thoughtful. And then he looks distracted. “Nah,” he says. And abandons the guitar for some quality time riding his skateboard on our front porch.