The girl scout industrial complex landed this week and there was nowhere to hide. Of course it’s my own fault. Last year Shayla got excited and we sold lots of cookies. When the Troop needed a Cookie Manager, it seemed harmless enough. Why not store a few cookies in the garage and help out?
Fast forward: cookie class, background check, orientation night, a bunch of other stuff, and… yikes, here I am running the cookie booth in front of Safeway. Shayla refuses to come because I was too strict at our last sale. Also she’s got something at school she’d rather do. But it’s fun, hanging with the moms and dads, watching the girls learn commerce. Sweet even.
It’s also been a week about death. Death in the abstract, fortunately, not the concrete (though I was sad about David Bowie).
It was startling to come into Jaden’s room earlier this week to see why he was crying, and not hear one of the usual reasons (something unfair, something is too long away, something that had to be paused for now so he could sleep), but rather the central preoccupation of most of humanity. “Daddy, I don’t want to die. And I don’t want you to die either.” The little guy was weeping and beside himself. He was really feeling it.
While I wasn’t expecting it, this is actually a conversation I’m prepared to have. Comfortable even, though it was heartbreaking to see him so upset. As in questions about sex, I’m committed to sticking to the truth, though the truth has many facets.
“Yes, we’re all going to die sweetie. But most people live to be quite old, so it’s a really, really long time before it’s likely to happen.”
He seemed comforted by the truth, or maybe startled, though he was still sad.
The next morning Shayla brought it up. She must have overheard him the night before. “Did you know that one day the whole earth will be destroyed and everyone on it will die?” She asked over cheerios. Jaden looked stricken. “Even Santa?” asked Jaden. “Even Oski?” (Oski, Cal’s mascot, holds a special place in Jaden’s heart because he’s a fabled resident of our summer camp, and in Jaden’s cosmology Oski and Santa have frequent adventures together.)
“Santa and Oski are magic,” I told him quickly. “I’m pretty sure they can’t die.”
“But everyone else will,” Shayla added, helpfully.
“Do you know how long it is until your birthday, Jaden? Almost half a year. And you probably have nearly 200 of those half-years left in your lifetime. And the earth has 100 times 100 times 100 times 100 times 100 times 100…”
“A long long time,” he interrupted. He was getting the idea.
“Plus who knows what humans might do in all those thousands and millions of years,” I continued. “We might be living on other planets.” Of course we might run the whole thing into the ground way before then, but I didn’t have the heart for that over breakfast.
Time for school. Homework ready, coats on, supplies for the day. Our mortality and the fate of the planet would have to wait until at least after basketball practice. And there are cookies to sell.