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Heart Tickler

By Jean Southworth

February 2001

The best questions come at night. On the rare evening when Daddy isnít around for his master-storytelling to Taylor, I substitute with a bedtime cuddle. Itís pitch black. You never know whatís coming."So, how old are you, Mom?"

"Thirty-nine. But Iím gonna be forty this June. Pretty old, huh?" Pause.

"No, I think itís an HONOR!"

Oh, how this kid touches my heart. I no longer fear June, Ďcause you know, itís an honor. Thatís my motto. Donít dare question it, either.

Theyíre learning about hearts in Ms. Quastís fourth grade class this week. Without using any charts or diagrams, Ms. Quast carefully describes the various blood vessels which supply this crucial organ. Better yet, she tells of her own personal experiences as a potential heart patient. "I started feeling kinda funny," Taylor told me later. "All those blood veins and stuff- I felt a little sick." "I guess youíre not going to be a heart surgeon, huh, Taylor?" I asked.

"Thatís just what Ms. Quast said!" Taylor answered.

Ms. Quast must have noticed the curious shade of green on his face.

Taylor made a big heart card for me at church for Valentineís Day. OK, it was upside down, but to me, it was perfect. Less preparation went into his Valentineís Day box for school. I thought nothing of it when Taylor asked for a large bag to haul his Valentine's loot. I just pointed where to look. Taylor pulled a huge Meier and Frank department store bag from the overstuffed drawer.

In his defense, Taylor hasnít had a lot of time to think about things like Valentineís boxes. Being cast in South Salem Highís play, "The Music Man," takes up a lot of his energies. Mine, too. For security reasons, I hang out at the practices with the young director, 60 teenagers and 10 grade schoolers. (Yesterday I smelled something burning. Turns out everyone else did, too. No one cared.)

Anyway, Taylorís play practice meant he missed the Valentineís party, which was OK. Before he left, he got to see all the kids describe their special Valentineís Day boxes. He admired Michelleís castle, whose lid popped off when two cords were pulled. He appreciated Drewís grand piano-shaped box. Taylor got up and gave a monologue about how tough it was to yank that bag out of the kitchen drawer, how heíd somehow torn it up good on the way to school, and how heíd attempted a Scotch tape repair later in the day.

Taylor missed the class voting for best Valentineís Day box because of play practice, but we heard the results. Michelle got first; Drew got second. Taylor was in the running for third place. Apparently, they liked his story, if not his bag. Taylor must have been thinking of all this last night when he said, "You know, Mom, sometimes you can take sorta bad stuff and make it funny and OK."

"Yes," I said, thinking not of Valentineís Day bags, but of flying Dairy trucks.

Then he said, out of the blue, "Thanks, Mom, for coming to all my play practices. I know that canít be easy for you." I felt a warm tingle inside; this is the good stuff of parenting.

After Taylor rides a roller coaster, he always says, "It makes my heart tickle." Taylor may never be a cardiac surgeon, but I donít know of anyone who can tickle other peopleís hearts with such sweet and tender skill.