It is the eve of first grade. We are sitting in the hallway, on the runner; you are in pajamas, just bathed. We are discussing war. Because you have asked. You ask about shooting and cannons. The fort we visited at Lake George this summer gave you a vocabulary for things you probably never thought existed–like soldiers and gun powder and war.
Your younger sister joins us on the floor and we talk about power and the desire for land. The reasons behind wars. And you say they should ask nicely: “Can I please have some land?” We all agree.
You ask if when people are shot, they are dead forever. “How ’bout if they’re on a boat?” I tell you about the United States Armed Forces. It is a phrase I may have never said before.
Your sister stands up and says she doesn’t want to talk about bad things. Only good things, like parties, and getting our nails done, and going out to get something to eat or drink. And the baby dream she had.
You say, “Lets all talk about learning something. Tell everything you know about something, like flowers? Or cake? Or movies?”
I pick birds. “Many birds migrate in the winter.”
And we sit close and discuss migration: “Animals have to go from one place to another to search for food or shelter or nicer weather.”
“Like robins,” you decide. “Robins migrate because they don’t like the cold.”
“Yes, the cold and for food.”
You tell us, “I have a friend, Robin, whose last day is today. He leaves tomorrow.”
Your sister and I ask questions about Robin. I ask if he leaves every winter. If he lives in a tree. A “nest,” your sister corrects me. You already said goodbye. He has to go tomorrow.
Your sister asks if you will miss him.
“But he will come back,” I say, “when it’s warm again. They come back in the spring.”
“Yes,” you say. “That first robin outside, every year, that’s always my friend.”