Big Brother was busy. More importantly, he was productively busy and quiet at the same time. He was sitting at the dining table with craft stuff spread around him and a palpable air of excitement surrounding every snip snip snip with the scissors.
I didn’t ask what he was doing. (Like I said, he was productive, busy and quiet. If you don’t have a five-year-old, you have no idea how rare a thing that is. I didn’t want to ruin it.) I just peered over his shoulder and saw him cutting a piece of paper into the shape of a heart, and jumped to all the wrong conclusions.
Oh, he must be making me a card. That’s so sweet. And then I went back to cooking dinner, humming happily to myself.
A few minutes later, he was finished. “Mummy! Look what I made!” he called, barely able to stand still in his excitement.
“Awww. That looks lovely. What is it?” I asked.
He smiled up at me. “It’s a message for Mother Earth,” he said. “It says: Dear Mother Earth. I really love you. I really love you so much. I hope you are having a nice rest in the winter. Love, Big Brother.”
You know, I wasn’t even disappointed it wasn’t a message for me. He was so sweet and earnest. “That’s beautiful,” I said, meaning every word.
“But how am I going to give it to her?” he asked.
That stopped me for a moment. Then I did what I always do in these situations — I referred him back to songs and stories. “Well, when the Winter King’s gnomes gather seeds for Mother Earth, how do they give them to her?”
His eyes lit up. “They bury them underground! I can bury this for Mother Earth!”
And so out came the shovel, and off to the garden we went.
Once it was positioned just right (which took almost half an hour), he looked thoughtful. “But how will Mother Earth know it’s here?”
“I’m sure She’ll know,” I said with a smile.
But just to be on the safe side, he made sure not all of the message was covered by dirt and leaves. It wouldn’t do for Mother Earth to miss his message.
We went back inside, and that was that. Or so I thought.
The next day, Big Brother went outside to play. He was back within a couple of minutes. He looked miserable. “Mother Earth didn’t take my message,” he said.
Right. Apparently I hadn’t done my part.
“I’m sure She will,” I said soothingly. “Maybe she was just busy last night. We’ll check again tomorrow.”
The next morning when Big Brother went outside, not only had Mother Earth found his message, She had left one of her own.
(For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you may be surprised by my complicity in this story. After all, I’m all too happy to tell my children the truth about Santa. But even for me, the idea of telling my son that Mother Earth isn’t “real” is just… wrong. Wrong in a way I can’t even describe. I hope you understand.)