We had beautiful weather this past weekend, although that observation is not unanimous. The warm temperatures put an abrupt end to our visit with Frosty the Snowman. I am grateful he took off without putting us through an awkward exchange of good-byes. The watery trail of his departure trickled out of our yard and down the drive. His discarded soggy laundry that lay in the yard was returned without ceremony to a wicker basket under the bench in our entrance way. Two large grapes, once Frosty's view into our neighbor's living room, were plucked off the ground by a pesky crow within seconds of their last blink. The baby carrot, suddenly a nose without a face, hauled off by a squirrel unimpressed with the vegetable's former star status.
For me, the disappearance was only as inconvenient as transporting a pile of wet cotton that dripped each step across the yard to the house. But I did worry about Elliott's response to the disappearing act of a creature he helped create. Would it be magic or abandonment.
"Where'd Frosty go," Elliott asked.
"Uhm, Frosty went bye-bye," I said. The words came out more question than answer. I took a deep breath to prepare for his response.
"Frosty went bye-bye," he repeated. That was it. There were no issues of loss to deal with. Elliott demanded no timetable for Frosty's return. There was a simple unemotional acknowledgment that Frosty went bye-bye.
I'm getting good at gauging just what Elliott does and does not understand, but that has equal parts risk and comfort. We took a walk Sunday afternoon to soak up some of the brightest sun of the new year. It was warm, but once the four of us were beyond the driveway, we had already fared better than Frosty. I pushed Ian and Elliott in their double stroller. Ian lounges in the front protected by the sunshade; Elliott stands on a step at the back of the stroller that allows him to see Ian and scout the road ahead like the captain of a boat. This had never been a problem before today.
I saw the creature lying in the middle of the road long before we reached it. I could have altered course to avoid questions, but I was full of confidence after counseling Elliott through the Frosty crisis to a happy ending. We were within smelling distance of the animal carcass when Elliott asked, "What's the squirrel doing daddy?" I had prepared my response as we neared.
"He's taking a nap," I answered.
"Squirrel's taking a nap in the road. Silly squirrel," responded Elliott.
Brave beyond reason at this point, I commented "Yea, but not as silly as he used to be."
I was grateful for the silent confirmation that my sarcasm flew well above his head. In the days, hopefully years ahead, my aim will falter, and explanations deeper than "Frosty went bye-bye" or "He's taking a nap" will be required. I will lose my parenting free-pass that accompanies the age of innocence. These are the moments my excitement wanes over visions of Elliott and Ian playing little league, mowing the yard (it is hard to lose excitement over this one), catching the school bus and endless other activities that come with the disposal of their baby clothes. There are so many reasons to shudder at the thought of them growing up.