Tanner is seven. I cannot describe the summersault my heart does when I approach his house and he looks up from whatever he’s doing to greet me matter of factly, as an equal, “Hi Elroy.” I’ve been watching him grow ever since he moved to the neighborhood when he was 3. His mom is so pretty inside that it just beams out of her, her smile illuminates the world. Tanner has a little sister and in about six months there will be a new baby in their family. It has taken Tanner a while to decide what he thinks of me.
Lately, he has made it clear in his stoic New England way that I belong in his neighborhood. Yesterday, he was helping his mom clear away overgrowth from their blackberry patch. I commented on his newly shorn head, “Nice haircut, Tanner.” “Thanks, Mom did it for me. I have lice.” His mom and I had a conversation about the horror of bugs residing on the head. We discussed the terror that accompanies the discovery, the scrubbing and washing, bleaching and disinfecting that louse eradication demands. Tanner wanted me to know that they saw some on his pillow. I said, “They’re interesting aren’t they Tanner?” “Yeah, they’re interesting but they’re gone now, right Mom?” I think he might grow up to be a biologist.
Today, I was absorbed in my internal world and I didn’t notice Tanner until he spoke to me. “Hi Elroy.” The straightforward, old man, greeting from that seven year old person just melts my heart. The kid is so cute. “Look what I got done today.” He had hoed the raised beds where the vegetables grow. “Wow Tanner, you got a lot done. Did you do all of this after school.” “Yup.” He commences hoeing. “Are you tired?” “No, I was hot and I had to put my shorts on. My hands are getting sore.” “Maybe your dad has some gloves you can wear.” “No, I’m almost done.” I’d been dismissed. “Bye Tanner.” “Bye Elroy.”