This morning, I thought of something that I wrote almost nine years ago. It is a story about my son, Eli. Eli is a great, fun and loving kid, just six months away from being a teenager. But this story took place when he was only three. I think if it often:
Two weeks ago, Eli, my three-year old, asked me what water is made of. I was rather distracted trying to get him into his car seat so I answered without thinking.
“Hydrogen and Oxygen,” I quipped.
He asked, “What’s hilgrigin and oxelgon?”
“Basic elements,” I said as I closed the car door, hoping the subject might change by the time I made it to the driver’s seat.
His question haunted me that day. More acurately, my answers bothered me. I am such a materialist. Such a modern. Such a practical atheist…a fact junky.
What is water made of? I am convinced that every pre-modern culture had a very good answer to this question that involved a beautiful narrative of one of their own recieving water from the Divine. We think that we have all the right answers now. Water is H2O, we say. But H20 is a meaningless practical fact. It’s a label that we created to forget the story of what water really is.
Water is made of love and life. That’s the truth. It’s a gift, not a formula. I made a vow that day that I would try to answer Eli’s next difficult question as a spiritual being instead of some organic calculator.
The next question came about four hours ago. Eli and I were on our way home from Walmart when he noticed the lunar eclipse. (I knew it was happening but had forgotten to look for it.)
“What’s wrong with the moon, Daddy?”
I looked up. “It’s an eclipse, Eli.” Oh, no. Here I go again.
“What’s an ekilps, Daddy?”
It was all I could do not to explain planetary rotation, natural satellites and the moon as a reflective body. I searched my brain for a story. Nothing came to mind until Eli spoke again.
“I think the moon has a moon-blanket on ’cause he’s cold,” my son hypothecated.
I said, “Sounds good to me, buddy. It is really cold on the moon right now.”
“Yeah…and the moon is far away. Farther than Memaw and Papaw’s house, huh?”
“Yeah, really far,” I answered.
We arrived home about five minutes later and Eli immediately told Mommy, “The moon has a blanket on!”
She stared bewilderingly at me.
”There’s an eclipse tonight,” I explained.
I had to translate truth into fact for her. Now if I could just learn to do the opposite for Eli.