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Pete Symons

I lead my boy out to the patch, carrying his brand-new shovel. He carries his gloves in his left hand and the packet in his right. I have to stifle a laugh as I see the delicate and serious way he carries them. He holds the seeds and gloves by the tips of the fingers, letting them dangle in front of him. Like he is on parade.

He takes his life very seriously, as if he already knew how short and precious it is. There are times when I worry that his earnestness will block any chance he has of experiencing joy or wonder. But I have hope for the seeds.

He stops at the edge of the patch and looks up at me with doubting eyes. Does he remember his mother planting here? He rarely talks, so I cannot say. And knows (or speaks) few words. I don’t know how far back his memory goes.

‘Beeboots,’ he says.

A deep part of me wants him never to learn how to pronounce ‘beetroot’ correctly. But I say ‘Yes, beetroots.’

I move my hand toward him to take the packet of seeds. He pulls away quickly, yelling ‘NO! Me!’

He hugs the packet to his chest, covering it with his arms.

I relent and, with such dexterity and care it made me think of a ballet dancer, he places the packet on the ground; flat with the photo of beetroots facing the sky. Then places one glove next to the seeds. He begins to pull on the remaining glove, but on the wrong hand.

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