One spring evening, cuddled up together under my down comforter, I asked Pickle what he wanted to be when he grew up, what kind of life he wanted to have.
“Just a regular life,” he replied, as if my question was a little silly.
Just a regular life.
“You mean like the life we have now?” I asked. He nodded.
Several years ago I asked my husband what kind of bird he would be if he could be any bird at all.
“A robin,” he answered, without hesitation, “or a blue jay. Just a regular bird.”
I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t believe him.
“A robin? Just like a regular, run-of-the-mill robin? You wouldn’t want to be a hawk, or an eagle, or something interesting like a penguin or an ostrich? A heron?”
“No,” he shook his head, “just a robin.”
We met in nursery school. Though I can’t honestly say that I remember him. I remember the swing set and missing a step and rolling my ankle. And I have vague, watercolor memories of making art projects, perhaps Easter bonnets, in a bright sun-filled room.
We went to high school together. I sat behind him in Ms. Zaffer’s 9th grade science class. He teased me, and wore bright striped shirts that were too big for him. In college he called me, very much out of the blue, and perhaps under the influence of some adult beverages. We dated. Then we didn’t. But he still agreed to come to my 5th college reunion with me.
And when we ducked into the parking garage by the grad school to escape a torrential downpour I looked at him and I knew. I knew that I would marry him.
And I did, a few years later in the same church that housed our preschool.
Of course he wanted to be a robin. He is a robin.
I had dated hawks, dodos, kiwis. I had lusted after eagles and peacocks. But I married a robin. My robin.
My robin who is humble and kind. My robin who is responsible and loving. My robin whose goal has never been fame, or attention, or fortune, but instead just to lead a good and regular life. Spending time with his family, loving his kids, mowing the lawn, going to work, going to church, paying bills, cooking dinner, playing catch, changing diapers, reading magazines. Learning, laughing, doing.
A few weeks ago, at an event, a childhood acquaintance who I hadn’t seen in at least a decade complimented me on my handsome (baby-holding) husband, much the way someone would compliment me on a new sports car or a trophy wife. I laughed, a bit uncomfortably, but agreed. “He is tall and handsome,” I conceded. But, I thought to myself, he is so much more.
“Just a regular life,” I repeated to Pickle. He smiled, his nose with new spring freckles crinkled.
He is five. I had expected him to tell me that he wanted to be a Superhero or a Transformer, or to lead some sort of fantastical life.
But he is his father’s son. A little robin who is content to live a life of kindness, loving other people, being a normal kid, doing normal kid things, and snuggling with his mom on a spring night.
“Do you know what kind of job you want?” I asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
He thought. “A cowboy,” he said, “and a dad.”
I kissed his forehead.
“That sounds like a very good plan to me,” I said. “And I think you’ll be a really great dad.”