There’s no polite way to say it. Porter, one of my nine-year-olds, talks too damn much. He narrates his actions as if I’m blind and can’t see what he’s doing. “I’m going to make an omelet with ham and eggs,” he’ll say, pulling the eggs and butter out of the refrigerator. “First I’ll mix up the eggs and scramble them,” he’ll continue, as he cracks the eggs into a bowl. “Now I’m waiting for the cheese to melt a little. Is it melted? It looks kind of oozy…”
I’ve learned to ignore most of the running commentary. But Porter’s also exceptionally curious, and his questions would drive even the most enthusiastic teacher to the brink of insanity.
“What would happen if the sky fell? What Mom?”
“The sky isn’t going to fall, Porter,” I’ll say tiredly.
“But what if it did? Just say it did? Would you feel it hit your head? If you looked up, would you see blue? Would the clouds fall, too? Would we be able to see straight into heaven?”
It had been a hot and dreary day. I’d been juggling Finn’s baseball schedule and trying to mark Drew’s clothes for camp. In between, Porter had followed me around, asking, “How many seeds do you think fit in Feather’s bird feeder at one time? Why do we have grandparents? What would happen if we didn’t? Who invented summer camp?”
By dinner I was spent. I could feel the symptoms of PMS creeping up on me like a cagey leopard. Across the table I saw Finn wielding his fork with surgical skill to extract the onions from the Bowties With Peas & Prosciutto I had prepared.
“Dude, just eat it all in one bite,” I snapped.
“I can’t eat onions,” he whined. “They’re like, really nasty.”
“They’re not nasty,” Porter said, stuffing a quarter of an onion into his mouth and chewing. “They’re actually quite delicious. What makes onions so delicious, Mom? And why can’t you eat the skin? Why do they make you cry when you cut them? What if everything tasted like onions—do you think Finn would starve?”
I slid my chair back abruptly and stood up. “I can’t take it anymore,” I said. “The questions, the criticism of my food, it’s all too much.” I looked at Bill. “Honey, y’all take care of this kitchen. I’m going to bed to read.”
I had barely taken a step when Porter asked, “What are you going to read? Can I read with you? If I bring a book, will you read to me?”
I was shaking. I got in his face and yelled, “Porter, if you want to continue to live in this house, The Questions Have Got To Stop.”
Then I got in bed and wept, over my picky eater, over my nutty schedule, over my cruel remark.
A while later Porter tiptoed in my room and handed me a piece of paper. It contained one last question:
It was nice to be forgiven.
Two years ago in My Tiny Kingdom: The Dirtiest Camper