A favorite little person and I were having an "Auntie Laura and Peanut" date.
At the time, Peanut was at that stage between toddler and little dude, small enough for a full-on carseat, but big enough to speak broken English fluently. (I know at first glance this seems like an oxymoron, but spend some time with a human being of this age and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.)
So we're west-bound on I94 through Fargo. P'nut is strapped into the driver's side backseat, feet a-kickin' away, singing "Lime In The Coconut" at the top of his little lungs. Every time the song would end, he would holler, "AGAIN!". Naturally, I would oblige.
About two and a half plays into the song that is clearly the only song in the world worth listening to, he says, "Hey, Auntie Laura?"
"Yes, sir?" I dutifully reply, pressing the mute button and angling the rear-view mirror to get a better view of him.
"Auntie Laura," he continues in one giant breath, little feet still bopping up and down in tandem, "do you 'member that time I was big and you were big and we were friends and I had a big blue truck and you had a kinda blue but not blue car and we would stop on the road and say hi and I love you and we were friends?"
Laughing at the magnificence of his imagination and sheer length of this sentence, I snorted out a, "No, Peanut, I sure don't."
The feet stopped moving. His jaw set. Our eyes locked in the mirror.
"Uh, yes, you do."
"Uh, no, I DON'T." (I'd like to tell you he was the first to take it up a notch. Sadly, that would be a lie.)
"YES. YOU. DO."
"OK, let me think," (I'm not dumb. I caught the tone in his voice, and it completely belied the size of his body. This boy meant BIDNESS.) "Uh ... no. I'm sorry, buddy, I just don't remember."
A sigh issues from the back seat.
"Yes, you do," and then a short pause before, "LIME IN THE COCONUT!"
And that was that.
Puzzling, but it faded away as many things do.
Six months later, in the middle of telling a my son a story, it hit me.
"... and your Dad drove a big ol' Bubba truck he named 'Baby'. She was, I think, an '84 Ford F150, blue with huge tires ...." my voice trailed off.
A lump in my throat the size of Missouri suddenly discluded breathing, much less speaking, from possibility in that moment.
Swallowing hard, I continued, "... and I drove a gun-metal gray LeBaron," (blue, but not, but kinda; 'sound familar?) "he would be coming home from work as I would be leaving, and we would stop in the middle of the street to talk for a minute and tell each other, "I love you."
Turning to my son and throwing the last of the memorial flowers for the year into the river, I went on.
"Your Dad and I would always say, "I love you" to one another. Even after we broke up. Even up until the last time we talked before he died. Every time. Even if we fought, we still said it."
It was the anniversary of Kevin's death and each year, the Boy and I had our ritual of remembrance.
I shared the Peanut conversation with him a few days later.
And the next year we stopped doing our annual ritual. It was the BoyRD's idea. He said it had been long enough and that we needed to move on.
And so we started in a new direction.
Peanut hasn't given me another glimpse into his soul in the quite the same manner since that late winter day so many years ago.
But he always tells me loves me.