"Mama, would you eat a peanut butter and pickle sandwich for $10?"
"Oh, probably not. Would you?"
"Would you eat an entire jar of peanut butter for $50?"
"In one sitting? No."
"Okay. Would you rather eat an entire jar of peanut butter, or pick weeds for five hours, for $50?"
"I think I'd rather pick weeds."
We're in the kitchen in late evening, the teenager and I, and these are the questions. He scoops sugar with his fingertips, pours it into his mouth.
"How about a quart of sugar for $1,000,000? Would you eat that?"
"I suppose, for a million, I would."
I'm making pizza; he's making lemonade and caprese. He sets the jar under the tap, watches the water foam sugar and lemon juice. With the wooden spoon, he stirs.
I slice the tomato thin, so there will be enough to go around (so many green tomatoes in the garden; not so many red). He washes the basil, and I show him how to slice a chiffonade. His hands layer the mozarella and tomato. He scatters the basil. I drizzle olive oil and balsamic.
We set the table, call the others. Together we eat in the dusky evening.
Later and darker still, when dishes are done, and the flowers are back on the table, we loll on couch and living room chairs, three of us: daddy, mama, teenager. The other two are off upstairs, winding down with Calvin & Hobbes and Football Tips & Tricks, but the oldest boy? He sits slanted in the easy chair, one knee hooked over the arm, settled in for a good long chat.
And we do. About everything and nothing.
He tugs at his forelock, his habit when thoughts are swirling. I watch his mouth forming words, smiling. I hear him laugh. I see his opinions and convictions settling deeper inside.
The idea that he would turn into an alien creature when he hit thirteen is one to which we've never subscribed. Just like we refused to look at age two as terrible. A broadening? Yes. More independence? Yes. More responsiblity? Yes. All of these, growing steady by jerks. There will be falling down and getting up over these next few years, that we know.
And the good of the boy will just keep getting better.