My mother sent our kids a box last week. The girls, of course, got clothes, and the boys, being far less excited about what covers their bodies, got Legos. Jake’s set included an alien, an alien defense capture guy (Jake would disapprove of my vague terminology), and a capture vehicle. He LOVED it and played with it nonstop for days.
Last Sunday, a few days after the box arrived, I was working on lesson plans on the deck when Jake came out to see me. He set his Lego characters on a small table while he showed me an adjustment that he had made to the vehicle. “Look, Mom…” That’s all he got out before IT happened. The small alien figure–Jake’s favorite–toppled off the table and disappeared down a hole in the deck.
“Oh, buddy,” I said, “that’s why I’ve told you not to bring your Legos out here.”
He was distraught. “What can I do? Can I find it? We have to be able to get it somehow!”
Usually my first inclination is to say, “Tough knocks–you learn from experience,” and I have to fight this hardness of my heart. This day, though, Jake’s curled-up face softened me immediately, and I was able to empathize right away.
“Come on, let’s look,” I told him.
We walked all the way around the deck, trying to find a way under it, but the lattice was screwed on tight. We went into the basement hoping one of the windows would open. Those, too, were screwed tight. But the empty flower beds lining one side of the deck were soft from recent rains, and in one there was a gap between the dirt and the bottom of the lattice. “If I dug out a little more of that dirt, would you want to crawl under?” I asked Jake.
He looked at me doubtfully. Jake is like me, cautious and prudent. “What’s under there?” he said. Then, “What about Patrick? I think he might fit.”
That made me laugh, but of course Patrick was game–until I actually deepened the hole and he stuck his head through it and saw the gloomy underbelly of the deck. He pulled back and looked at Jake. “Uh, no.”
“Would you go if Jake went?” I asked him. He nodded.
I dug out more, and Jake got down on his belly. “There’s no way he’ll do this,” I thought. He paused until Patrick, bold now with Jake’s leadership, got right behind him and touched his leg. “What do you see?” Patrick asked.
That did it! With a wiggle and a push from behind, Jake was under the lattice, and Patrick followed right after.
I was so proud of them. I walked up on the deck and found the spot of “disappearance.” “Right about here, guys,” I said, sticking a pen between the boards of the deck.
But the neon green alien could not be found (back in his own world perhaps?), and the boys emerged from their adventure a few minutes later empty handed and covered in dirt. I consoled Jake and thought that was the end of it. But though disappointed in the loss of the alien, there was a swagger to their steps, and a little while later they came out in full explorer gear ready to try again. I envisioned having to wash all the extra clothing and convinced them that explorers going through tight spaces can’t wear quite so much.
The second trip into the murky depths was also unsuccessful but by now they were too pumped to really care. I sat on the deck listening to their chatter beneath me. “Look at this!” “Ooh, that’s creepy!” “I wonder how long it’s been since somebody was down here.”
When they finally came out, it was as if they had conquered something.
Pretty soon I’m going to replace that little green alien. Somehow it just feels right.