It's two days after Christmas and Zay and I are folding socks. All of a sudden he shoots up. Stands. His almond eyes go big and round. The nest of socks that has been on his lap tumbles in a loose knot to the floor. "I forgot one of your Christmas presents," he says. "I'd better go get it. Now!"
He bolts from the washroom. I can hear his feet pounding down the hall. I match a pair of black Nike socks and smile. Zay had been busy making gifts months before Christmas. He'd handcrafted things from cardboard, paper, the tubes from paper towels...There were shoeboxes of treasure squirrelled away all over the house.
I wonder what he's made me.
Zay returns in an instant. He does, indeed, have a shoebox under his arm. His smile is shining joy. "Sometimes a boy forgets," he says. "Then the Mom gets another present. After Christmas."
He thrusts the box forward.
"I like unexpected presents, Zay," I say. "I think the timing is just right."
I hold the box on my lap. Smile at my son. Remove the lid with careful hands. There's a cardboard heart inside. The gentle curves at the top are stapled together. There's a jute rope looped through.
A heart-shaped necklace. From my son.
"I love this necklace," I say. "It's beautiful."
Isaiah takes a knee beside me. "No, Mama," he says. "It's not just a necklace. It's more." He takes the necklace in his small hands. He carefully opens the heart from the point.
There's a tiny picture of a boy inside.
"It's a locket," he says. "For you. Inside is a picture of me."
I take the gift from my son. I hold it close and look at the boy inside. He has a round face. Stick legs. Hair standing on ends. His smile is big and wide. He's standing in the center of a heart.
And right then and there I'm renewed. What a precious thing to hold a child's heart. What an overwhelming, beautiful, crazy gracious thing.
We sit quiet for a minute.
To hold a boy's heart. To teach that heart. To mold that heart. To have the blessing, the privilege, to fill it with truth and honor and honest, good things. To help it learn to be strong enough to protect, to put others first, to stand alone if need be...but also strong enough to see beautiful in small places.
It's just me and my boy and a quiet corner of time.
To help that boy learn about the saving grace of Jesus. To help him know God's love.
After a moment, Isaiah takes the necklace and gently loops it over my neck. In an instant his arms are around my neck, too. I pull him to my lap. He settles in over the abundance of unmatched socks.
I pull him close and kiss his still-soft hair. Breathe in the goodness of a little boy. His head settles under my chin, where I wish it could last forever.
And the necklace is pressed between us.
The amazing blessing of holding a son's heart.