Sir Luke surprised me this morning. I wasn’t drilling, just probing, assessing how much these sweet beans know. What do yellow and red make? “Orange,” he said without looking up. Blue and yellow? “Green.” Scoop of vanilla, scoop of chocolate, don’t waste my time, lady. Red and blue. “Yawn.”
Only he said “purple” in lieu of “yawn.” When I asked Abigail the same questions, she looked up at me. Guilty. “I don’t know my colors as well as I should,” she said in a way that kind of broke my heart. It doesn’t matter if she knows them or not, that’s not what hit me. It was that tone of apology. I know how hard that is, to admit—and make no mistake, that’s what it feels like, a huge confession, strung up in a net of shame—what we don’t know, what we’ve done or got wrong. I wonder now, only briefly really, if it’s a learned tone, something she hears in my voice when I speak with Phil. I doubt it, not because the tone isn’t knit into my sentences—it has to be, and even now I can hear it in my own mother’s voice, a voice I can replay from childhood—but because I’ve seen it everywhere for as long as I can remember. The problem is, I associate that apologetic choke of words with “knowing better,” an understanding between right and wrong. I don’t want my children to associate not knowing something with degradation.
I kiss her on the crown of her head, smelling her shampooed hair, a floral clean. Then I crouch to meet her eyes and explain, “Don’t ever feel bad about not knowing something, okay? I don’t know a gazillion million things! Know what you should feel good about? Wanting to learn, asking questions, and being curious. It’s one of the things I love most about you. Never stop asking questions.”
“Mama,” she asks, now smiling and full of sass, “Are we going to learn our colors or what?” Her hands are now on her hips. She is my rainbow.