Home Planet

MONDAY, MARCH 1, 2010, 6 A.M.

Looking back: Raising a son

February 25, 2008

Home Planet: Kids often leave us hungry to know more

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review

The first person on my mind when I opened my eyes in the morning, was my son. I suppose that was because I had talked to him the night before.

He called me and we talked a long time, about a lot of things. But when I put down the phone I still had unanswered questions.

I had caught up with him, but there was still a lot I didn’t know.

“What’s really going on with you?” I wanted to ask. “Are you OK?”

Later that morning, packing a lunch for my daughter, his little sister, I put a handful of Goldfish crackers in a zip-top bag. And I had to smile.

There was my answer.

I was in the park last summer and I watched a man carrying his son on his back as they walked around the pond. The man and the little boy both had heads covered in soft, dark, curls.

The father had a bag of Goldfish crackers in his hand and every minute or so he would hand a cracker up to his son. What the man didn’t know was that the child wasn’t eating them. He would take one, pop it in his mouth until it was nice and soft, and then take it out again and drop the gooey mess down into his father’s hair.

One after another the bites were taken, gummed and then dropped.

The back of the man’s head was decorated with orange.

He was clueless.

I was on my way over to say something, but at that moment his wife walked up.

She was holding the hand of a little girl, the big sister of the family, and when she looked at her husband she gaped. And then she laughed.

“What?” he asked.

“Do you have any idea what’s been going on?” she asked, reaching up to pluck a cracker out of his hair.

When the man saw what she was holding he groaned and put a hand up to his head.

The baby, still sucking on a goldfish, grinned a toothless, orange smile and kicked his feet in delight.

“Good one, buddy,” the man said with a sigh. “You got me, didn’t you?”

He shrugged out of the straps holding the baby-filled backpack off his shoulders, and lowered it to the ground. Then he bent over and combed the goo out of his hair.

That’s the thing about having children.

Even when we’re as close to them as it is possible to get, we don’t really know what’s up.

But when they’re on their own, we’re even more out of the loop.

My little boy grew up and now he towers over me. Now I’m the one on his back and he feeds me bits and pieces of his life one little bite at a time.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons,” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

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Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country.