Smith asks a lot of questions that strike me as dark for a preschooler; what happens to our bodies when we die? why do we have to get old? mama, are you going to be ugly when you're old? why don't people like ugly things? when will my body stop getting bigger and stronger and start getting smaller and weaker? am I going to get old and die one day?
The responses that bring him comfort are the ones that are the least spiritual and the most literal. The idea that a body breaks down and nourishes the earth so that it can provide new life is a winner. Explanations of spirit versus body, or God, or as one aunt tried to explain, 'up in the clouds with the angels'... all that seems to confuse, frustrate, and even frighten him.
His brain is so scientific, so focused on the physical, and so very different from my own. I often struggle to find the 'right' way to have these discussions, but somehow we muddle through, and I think (hope) he is getting what he needs.
Our minds stir over things differently, but what we share is a hefty helping of headspace. When I was in Kindergarten, and only a few months older than Smith, I remember peeling off the thin membrane from a segment of grapefruit, and studying all of the juice-filled crystals inside. Each one was slightly different in shape and size, and they all nested together like a flawlessly organic jig-saw puzzle. I hadn't been raised with a lot of religion, but I knew in that moment that there was something, that the degree of design in this seemingly insignificant piece of life was greater than the force of nature. Over the years I have questioned that conclusion again and again, but I do know that I was certain at the age of five.
By contrast, James doesn't remember five. He remembers almost nothing from his entire childhood, safe for a new bike or a ski trip; a thing or an event here and there in the span of a decade and a half, but zero 'thoughts' have been archived. He rolls his eyes over most of my self inflicted mental crises, and it's not because he is a simple or unintelligent man. He is driven and loves problem solving and will do no end of brain gymnastics to reach a goal. But questionably productive soul searching, truth seeking, anxiety dwelling, deep reflecting... he simply doesn't have those settings. 'You think too much', is a phrase he throws at me often. And I probably do. My son probably also thinks too much, or maybe his father thinks too little ;)
If given the choice, I'm not certain that I would pass down to my children 'heavy thinking' as a trait. So many sleepless nights and worries and fears could be lifted if my head didn't hug them so tightly. But this is who we are, it's why I am writing these words and why my son often runs the other way when someone unfamiliar offers a simple, 'hello'. We are lost in our heads. It's inherently lonely, but there is comfort in being here together.