Before my son went to school, we used to hunt acorns during our long, sun-drenched mornings. We’d squat by an old oak in our backyard, poking the dirt with sticks.
We unearthed earthworms who probably would have rather been left alone, grubs who likely felt the same, and occasionally, beetles with iridescent green shells that would skitter off under dead leaves.
But our quest for those perfect acorns—the smooth ovals with the caps still on—was often unfulfilled. The squirrels always seemed to get to them first.
Once in a while, we’d get lucky. “Look!” my son would say, eyes round. Reverently, he’d pick it up, nestle it safely in his pocket, and place it in his collection bucket with all his sacred things later that day.
Those days, we had all the time in the world, save for the moments I was pulled away by the pains of my growing tummy with his little brother cocooned inside.
When my son went to preschool, his tiny sandwich tucked into a square lunchbox, I may as well have packed away my heart, too. Our lazy mornings were gone, replaced by the hustle of toaster waffles and tight, twisted car seat straps. I ended up with more time for his newborn brother, minutes I craved, but less time for digging in the dirt with the boy who first called me Momma.
One day, after a frantic morning tending to the baby and smooshing a part-time, work-from-home job into not enough hours, the car door slamming closed in the driveway brought me to the front door. My husband had picked up my son.
“Momma?” my son said. “I have something for you.” His eyes bright, he dug around in his pocket, and then pulled out his fist, still much too small to be doing great big things like school.
“What is it?” I asked. “Did you make it during Art?”
“No.” He opened his palm.
Lying there, like little brown pearls, were five perfect acorns, the ones with the caps still on.
“I found them for you on our nature walk.”
I pulled him to me, breathing in the scent of the sunshine still on his hair, evidence he’d spent a lazy morning poking in the dirt.
He hadn’t been with me this morning.
But I had been with him.
“What a treasure,” I whispered, my throat impossibly tight.
He thought I meant the acorns.