A 780 ft (240 m) crop circle in the form of a double (six-sided) triskelion composed of 409 circles. Milk Hill, England, 2001.
I draw circles and sacred boundaries about me; fewer and fewer climb with me up higher and higher mountains.—I am building a mountain chain out of ever-holier mountains. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Brooke and I are walking together. Well, I’m walking and she’s scooting. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate either. She’s actually skitching – hanging on to my arm while riding her scooter and getting pulled along. It’s a complicated arrangement, but it mostly works.
She launches into a script from Max and Ruby. It’s one that’s been high in the rotation lately. They are in the library and Max is, as usual, causing trouble. It’s my job to tell him to be quiet. I shush her bunny noise on command. She makes it again. As per the script, I say, “Not in the library, Max!” She giggles. And then, for the first time ever, she takes the script one step further.
In Ruby’s voice, she asks, “How do we look for a book in the library?”
I’ve never heard this before. I don’t have a practiced line to offer in return.
“I don’t know, Ruby.” I say, “How can we look for a book?”
“We type the title into the computer,” she says.
Oh, I love this. I’m running with it.
“How else can we look up a book?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says, “how?”
“Well, we could type in the title, like you said, or the subject, or … ?”
“Is there something else you can think of that we know about a book?” I ask. I know I’m asking a lot, but it’s my job to ask a lot. To presume competence. She’s in fourth grade. They’ve been looking for books in the library at least once a week since kindergarten.
“A bookshelf,” she says.
“That’s a good answer, baby,” I say, “A book goes on a bookshelf. But if we want to find a book at the library, we need to know which bookshelf it’s on. Let’s think about the parts of a book. What’s on the front cover?” I ask.
“The title,” she says.
“Yes!” I shout just a little too loudly. “And what else?”
“The characters,” she says.
“Well, the characters are IN the book,” I say, “What else does the front cover tell us?”
She knits her brow together. She’s working hard, but the answer’s not there.
“Maybe the person who wrote it?” I ask. “Do you remember what that person is called?”
She’s quiet. I know she has the word. I say nothing. Eventually, it comes.
“The author!” she shouts.
“Yes! That’s it! Sooooo …. what else could we type into the computer to find the book?”
“The book,” she says.
“Right,” I say, pretending that I don’t know that I’ve lost her. “What can we type into the computer to FIND the book?”
“The binding!” she says.
And there we are. Light-years from the tight little maze of dizzying circular conversations in which we lived for so long. We cover distance now – we move and we volley and we dance and we laugh and we skip and turn and jump and hell, even skitch down miles of road. And yet, we are still in the maze. We’re just making bigger circles.
I know I should be happy that we are where we are, but I’m deflated. I’m exhausted for me and I’m far, far more exhausted for her.
We wrap up the conversation and I tell her that we’ll talk more about it another time.
We walk in a comfortable silence for a while, until we come across a young girl riding a bike. I tell her that I like her tutu. Moreover, I like that she’s wearing it to ride a bike, I tell her, which is really sort of awesome. She smiles brightly.
Still clinging tightly to my arm, Brooke leans in ever so slightly toward her.
“Who are you?” she asks.
The girl looks at her, more curious than wary. I’ve learned to recognize the difference.
“I’m Lila,” she says.
“How old are you?” Brooke asks.
“I’m eight,” Lila says.
“How old will you be next?” Brooke asks.
Lila looks bemused and elicits a slightly awkward chuckle, but answers the question.
“I’ll be nine next,” she says.
Brooke is quiet. I whisper a suggestion to tell Lila her name. “I’m Brooke,” she says.
Lila asks if she goes to her school.
“I do,” Brooke answers.
Lila points her thumb at herself and her pinky at Brooke, making the sign that they use at school to acknowledge a connection. Katie calls it the “Me too” sign.
Brooke says, “Well, I have to go now. Have fun riding your bike!”
Lila says goodbye and rides off, her tutu trailing behind.
Brooke and I continue our walk / sktich toward home. “I told her to have fun riding her bike,” she says.
“You sure did, Brooke,” I say. “And that was awesome. I was really proud of you.”
As we get closer to home, Brooke asks me if we can go out to dinner. “Just the two of us.” ((She really said that, I swear — “Just the two of us.”)) My heart soars. My smile wraps around my head. I might just as well have been invited to Windsor Castle to meet the queen. Alone. Just the two of us. I am beside myself.
I explain that, as thrilled as I am that she asked, we can’t do it tonight. Daddy’s already made dinner and it will be on the table when we get back from our walk. But I promise that we will soon. She protests. I nearly crumble, but we just can’t. Not tonight. I promise. Soon.
I walk the rest of the way home on Cloud Nine.
So there we (really) are.
In circles, yes. But they are ever-widening, ever broadening, ever more encompassing circles.
As we finish our walk, I think of Lila and her Me Too sign. I ask Brooke to stop for a second. And there, smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk, I hug my girl long and tight.
She does Max – “Walk!” I laugh and tacitly agree to be Ruby – “One second, Max!” I say. She makes the bunny noise. I shush her. It’s what we do. It’s how we connect. It’s our circle.
Looking up books can wait. And I’ve no reason to worry; we’re bound to come around to them again soon.