Jillian and her little sister are on the bike path ahead of Tony and me. There is a grocery sack in her basket. A small gust catches it and sends it our way. She turns around quickly, yells to her father. She never stops; she never looks back.
Farther behind Tony, I didn't hear what she yelled. But the bag flies past Tony who tries to grab it, and when it floats beyond his reach, it's up to me to catch it. When it comes in for a landing, my front tire stops perfectly on it. I back up, awkwardly straddling my bike, and pick it up.
“What’s this?” I ask Tony.
"It’s Jill’s bug."
Ah, the bug collection for Science class. She has the same teacher as her older sisters had, and this is the third time we've spent half a year in pursuit of unusual bugs and insects. I still can't dig up a bug without wondering who in the neighborhood might need it for Science class.*
What strikes me about this incident is how it's a microcosm moment that symbolizes the enormities of parenting. Jillian long gone, is the quintessential confident child who will turn and ask something of her parents, never looking back. She knows her parents "have her back," and in that knowing, she has become.
Jillian is now a twenty-six year old, college educated, married woman, who lives 40 minutes away.
Last night, she sent a text asking me to find a certain jacket, to wash and dry it. She'll stop by in the morning to pick it up before she heads up the canyon for a retreat. I am comfortable and happy knowing she can still depend on me to catch the flying grocery sack of her needs. But so many years later, she knows she must follow up with a reminder, and in the morning when she arrives she's brought a box of donuts to say thank-you.
*Most recently while weed pulling on the hillside, I found an insect so distinct and disturbing, I actually called my neighbor. I knew her son was a scientist kind of guy who might also be collecting insects because it was the first term of school.
He came right down and identified the creature, but informed me he only needed to take a photo. Science class had moved into 21st century awareness that bug collecting might unnaturally tip the balance of our small neighborhood eco-system.