“Mommy, look! It’s a magical stick!”
“That’s nice, Bash.”
“Can I take it home?”
“Can I pleeeeease take it home?”
“Look, you can put it on the porch, okay?”
Bash’s speech follows two patterns: wistful questions and squeals of delight. (Flat out screeching is a separate matter.)
“Look, a pinecone! Can I keep it?”
“Look, Mommy, a red rock! I’ve always wanted a red rock!”
“What a pretty flower! Can we take it home?”
“Is this a rock, or is this bird poop?” (He takes special care to ask this before picking up the “rock”…he does now, anyway.)
So it grows, Bash’s collection: flower petals, bits of chalk, wood chips and tire bits from other parks, broken toys, pine cones, walnut shells, feathers, nests, little crab apples, those wee white tables put in the middle of a pizza to keep the delivery box from crushing it, wilted berries, stickers whose adhesive sides are coated by hair, fuzz, and crumbs, fragments of plastic left in the dirt by the previous homeowners, nuts, rocks, dirt clumps that look like rocks: all must be gathered up, for all are precious somehow. He’ll build rock factories, line up the sticks according to size, put his own plush animals into the nests and dirt and make himself a zoo. In Bash’s world, every single itty bitty whatzit has potential. Even torn up bits of boxes can become treats for animals or meteors from space. Every scrap of paper is a map, a note, a ticket to somewhere. My son hoards like a magpie, but with a purpose, too.
Writing’s rather like that.
For all the freewriting we muck through, there is always a find: maybe a name, a sentence, a detail, that has all the potential in the world—or in this case, in a story. Drafts always come out with quite a few holes, slanted walls, plumbing mixed with the wiring. It may as well have been created by the Three Stooges. But it’s in those moments where we dig into our collection of rescued words, a collection we could never live without, and discover just the patch, the nut, the stone that fits in a way we never thought possible.
I can’t imagine my home without Bash’s collection on the front porch. My eyes watch how his little hands reach into the grass of our yard and hold up yet another treasure the rest of the world overlooked. These tangibles feed his imagination in ways I can never predict.
And I love it.