My nephew and I went for a walk yesterday. It was one of the first chilly autumn days of the season, and we were both excited to be in the woods — I repeat the word often so he starts to know his surroundings: woods, marsh, beach.
At the trailhead, as we ducked under the metal gate, we saw something very interesting. A small ceramic train on top of the gate — a lost-and-found knickknack set out by the finder for its owner should he or she return to the woods.
“I take that,” said my nephew, as he picked it up and put it in his pawket.
“OK,” I said, then repeated that thing we say when we find things: “Finders keepers, losers weepers,” ignoring how unkind that really sounded.
The found object safely tucked away, we wandered in the woods for more than an hour. Up the big hill and down, around past the giant oak, along the wader! to look for turtles not sleeping and dawgies don’t kiss me.
There were leaves falling from trees and piles of acorns to collect, like Miss Suzy — a favorite book of his, and of me and my sister when we were his age.
A branch full of leaves became his umbrella. “I go up in sky” he says, like Mary Pokins in one of his favorite movies.
He’s gotten so big, my little nephew. Now almost two and half years on this planet, he seems to have outgrown Elmo and prefers Mark Pokins and the classic Gene Wilder telling of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He, like most kids, is enthralled by the technology of YouTube and streaming videos. Thankfully his Mom is judicious in her selections.
Still, I can’t help but wonder if my small lessons about woods, marsh, beach will ever have as much staying power as the seemingly vapid world of entertainment.
As we head back to Adjen’s cawr, my nephew stops to look at the ceramic train. He studies it for a minute then says “I put back.”
“You want to put it back?” I ask and he nods.
Sure enough, at the trailhead, he takes the train from his pawket and carefully sets it back on the gate. And as he does so, I am reminded of the beautiful scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, when Charlie returns the stolen Everlasting Gobstopper to Willie Wonka.
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
I came to the woods to teach my nephew and he ended up teaching me!
• • •
©2013, Jen Payne. Photo by MaryAnne Siok.