I answered the phone on the first ring, glad for the interruption of laundry duties.
My Mom whooped on the other end. “Hon, grab the baby and go out front! Look up!”
“Mom, where are you?” This being said while hoisting a wiggly 18 month old up to my hip and heading for the door. Forever my Mom’s child, I was drawn into the laughter of her adventuresome request.
Quickly walking across the still wet porch, the bare soles of my feet squished against the damp yard. Wiggling my toes into the soft grass, I looked up into the deep layers of silver-framed gray skies.
With the phone still adhered to my ear, Kyle bounced excitedly, pointing up. “Bow-bow-bow-bow!”
Held in place by a thinly gauzed curtain of gold-flaked clouds, a band of pure light wove rich hues from earth to heaven and back again.
“Wow, Mom! Are you talking about the rainbow? It’s gorgeous!’ Sliding Kyle down to walk on the wet grass, I asked, “Hey, when did you get home?”
More laughter from her end, she continued. “I didn’t yet, Sweetie. See that plane darting in and out of the clouds by the rainbow?”
“Is that your plane?”
“Yeah! See you all soon! Gotta go, we’re being told to turn the phones off…”
Two years later, I’m pulling weeds from the flowerbed in the front yard. The school bus dances with its shadow pooling across the lawn as it grumbles to a stop. With a deep ‘whoosh’ the door folds.
On my haunches, I sit back on my butt, arms wrapped around my legs, and squint against the sun. A small figure explodes, careening down the steep steps. He’s clutching a large piece of paper. Running on short legs, the preschooler flies over the blades of grass, and with the grace of youth, treats the paper as a precious banner while tackling me flat on the ground.
“Mom! Mom! Look what I made! Today is paint day, ’member?”
Grinning up at a small freckle of green on his cheek, I sat back up. “Yeah, I sure did remember!”
With great pride, he turns the paper to face me: A giant rainbow done in broad squiggly strokes arches under a cigar shape with wings. A painted sun shines behind the clouds, done in orange primary, with a traditional happy face giving it character.
On the phone later that night, I described Kyle’s painting to my sister.
“Do you think he understands?”
I pick at imaginary lint from my sweater, falling back on the rest of that day.
It was the last conversation I’d had with my Mom. The plane crashed to the waters overlooking the airport.
Running my fingertips across Kyle’s painting, I was assured that he did understand.
More than I did. For at the end of his child-like rainbow’s ends, my son painted a pot gleaming with gold. Next to each pot was a stick figure. Both had their arms raised.
Kyle shared that they were waving ’goodbye’.
The cigar shaped plane? It was heading towards the sun. In a small square of the plane’s surface, Kyle crayoned with care a window. I’d asked him if Grandma was looking out the window.
“Heck no, she’s sitting with the pilot, heading up to heaven.”
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