I love kids’ books. They’re brave in the same ways kids are brave. Brave in the face of the constantly unknown and — if we’re honest — the unknowable.
“What if we go somewhere else when we die?” Gavin asks.
“You mean like heaven?”
“Maybe. Or just anywhere.”
“I’m serious, Jill. That’s not even a real place. And nobody knows, anyway. Nobody knows what happens.”
“That’s my favorite part. The mystery of it. I love not knowing. The wonder of it makes me happy.”
“I don’t like that part. I’d rather know.”
“Whatever you do, have a party for me when I die. Be super Irish. Throw a big wild party to celebrate my life.”
“I know you’ll be sad but it’s important to remember that we’re lucky to live. That being alive is this awesome experience and all it costs is that we die. So even dying is pretty awesome because we got to be alive. For however long we were alive. We should celebrate that. We’re lucky for all of it.”
“I’m not going to throw a party when you die. That sounds terrible to me.”
“Well, anyway, just think about it. Tell some jokes.”
“Science is wrong sometimes, you know.”
“Everything is wrong sometimes, G. That’s why it’s so satisfying to be curious. The answers don’t matter as much.”
I read Harriet the Spy this week. I read it and felt all the terrible wonder of dissecting the world and being honest to the point of injury. I read it and felt that familiar sorrow for children. Learning empathy as they go. The way we all do, yes, but also with those wretched moments of vulnerability that children haven’t yet learned to hide or accept.
I called for my dead dog this week. Her name came out of my mouth and sat there in the fall afternoon for a long moment before I realized what I’d done. It hurt me and made me laugh all at once. Like being alive.