I hear the rustle of plastic and look up to see both kids speed around the corner from the kitchen with a piece of bread smushed in each hand. I didn’t even know we had any bread left, but they must have foraged the last remaining rejected end-pieces from the depths of the countertop. I see the bag discarded in the middle of the kitchen floor and a confetti of flax seeds litters the tiles below my feet. I breathe a sigh of relief upon the realization that they are indeed seeds and not tiny ants, which we have been battling in these hot summer months.
My four-year-old son Roman, seeing me examine the floor, stops running laps around the house, takes the last bite of this bread, which at this point resembles Play-Doh from being clutched in a sweaty hand for so long, and crouches next to me.
“Whatcha looking at mamma?” he enquires with a sincere curiosity.
“Oh, just these flax seeds that you guys spilled when you got the bread out. Do you want to help me sweep them up?”
I expect a huffy and whiny NOOOOOO!!!! but instead he looks at me for a few seconds. His eyes light up and he takes a deep breath while raising his eyebrows, and I know an idea is about to make its way into the universe. He carefully presses his pointer finger onto one of the shiny flax seeds and once it sticks, he brings it up to his face to examine it, making himself go cross-eyed in the process. He then transfers it into his palm, cradling it there and looks up at me with his saucer-sized brown eyes and exclaims, jumping up and down, “Mamma!! We are going to grow BREAD!!! We are going to have a BREAD PLANT!” Before I can piece together what he is talking about he is out the front door, with his little sister squealing behind him as if she can feel his sheer excitement in the air and is feeding off of it. He grabs one of the metal shovels that we had to buy at the nursery a few weeks prior because he and sister made their way to the display and started banging them on the concrete floor before I could confiscate the digging tools. With everyone now staring at me I felt like I couldn’t just put them back as I was sure they were a bit dinged up. The other part thought c’mon people, they are shovels, they aren’t going to stay pristine for long anyway. I couldn’t take the judgement, so $40.00 later we were the proud owners of two new shovels we didn’t know we needed.
If only I had known that that ridiculously overpriced shovel would be used to dig the smallest of holes that would harbor the seed that would produce the world’s first ever bread plant, I might have been less annoyed about it.
I watch my son as he carefully places the tiny seed into the hole, covering it with dirt and then goes to get the hose to water it. The excitement seems to have worn off and has been replaced with determination. He looks at me and says matter-of-factly, “We will have bread soon.” With that he closes the front door behind him as he walks inside, leaving me in near tears as I look at that little wet patch in the dirt. It might have been partially due to sheer shock as this is the first time he has turned on the hose without getting everything in the surrounding 30-foot radius soaking wet, but it takes me a moment to collect myself.
I am surprised by how much I have to suppress the urge to immediately correct him, to shield him from the disappointment that the flax seed would not indeed turn into a loaf of bread. But, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I don’t say anything. I just follow his lead and continue the afternoon as if nothing ever happened.
The next morning, as I am making breakfast I hear the hose going outside, which instantly triggers a spike in blood pressure as I prepare myself for the need to towel off our neighbors truck again (who always leaves the darn windows open) but surprisingly the water is only on for a couple of seconds, and then I hear the front door close. Roman plops down at the table to eat, again without saying a word. When we leave the house, I notice the wet spot again. Nourishing a seed that will never grow into what is expected of it.
This has been happening for about a week and today on my way to drop the kiddos off at their Pati’s (South Indian word for grandma) house before heading to work, Roman begins to randomly and gleefully clap. When I ask him what he is so happy about, he says he just can’t wait to see his loaf of bread come out of the ground, to which my almost two-year old daughter gleefully responds, “YAY! BED!” There is that pang again. That urge to nip this in the bud (no pun intended) before he gets disappointed, but once more, I resist. That seed may not turn into loaf of bread, but it is growing something that can’t justify squelching. I am also grateful that at the very least it has reined in his hose spraying.
After consulting with dear friends, I have decided, much like the Tooth Fairy leaves money under a pillow and Santa Claus leaves presents under a tree, I am going to wake up early one of these days and leave bread on top of the soil that has been so faithfully watered and cared for. Maybe I won’t go for the whole loaf, but perhaps a seeded roll to fulfill my adult need to keep things as realistic as possible given the circumstances.
Magic can come in many forms. My son will have the rest of his life to be corrected. To be told about the realities of the world and then to experience some of those realities first hand. So for now, before he has to fight to hold onto his curiosity and imagination, I am going to let him believe that a single seed can grow into a loaf of bread. In this moment, that is his truth, and who am I to steal that from him? I mean, if there is nothing wrong with a fairy flying into your room in the middle of the night to take your teeth, or a jolly old man coming down your chimney to eat cookies and leave you gifts, I don’t see the harm in placing baked goods in your own yard to foster childlike wonder.
Today as we are leaving the house, I notice that the dirt is completely dry. My heart breaks a little thinking he has given up hope. Just then, he looks up into the sky and says, “It feels like rain is comin’. That will be good for the bread.” I breathe a sigh of relief that the dream lives for another day.
MARISSA B. NIRANJAN is a quarter Italian, only child, married to an Indian who happens to be an identical twin. When she’s not chasing after their tiny hooligans, she’s saving snow leopards, using too many exclamation points or warming up her coffee in the microwave. She loves her kids, but she really misses hot coffee!!