when my little boy jonathan and i had our first picnic in the dark – with flashlights and one small felt cover – i told him about the skies and what we could see, beyond. he asked me about every star, about how people knew about it all. i said we didn’t know half of it, yet.
jonathan would lie down, his blond hair shimmering dark blue in sparse light, his miniature shoulder hidden behind the cover’s highest crease. slowly, he would become silent, taking his breaths calmly, almost cherishing. although he was such a vivid soul, he seemed to fall into some state of mind that made him seem like he was paralyzed; with his eyes wide open, as though he had suddenly been overwhelmed by the beauty and the immensity of life. he peered at the stars as if they were tiny holes in the firmament that hovered above us like deep blue sheets.
we used to do these picnics, often.
some nights, i just admired him rest beneath the stars, while some other nights, I had to fight my fear of him dying like this. now. here. apparently happy, but way too young.
then i witnessed every single breath he took, every nervous heartbeat that lift up his chest for a fraction of a second to immediately pull it back down. when i was really scared of losing him, i put my hand on his little chest, to watch over this life, to reassure myself; so I could finally close my eyes.
“there are stars, whose light rays have travelled through the universe for 8500 years”, i whispered to him, like i was the only one to know about it, “and it is only now that their light falls into our eyes. after such a long time, they finally reach us.”
“good thing we didn’t miss them.”, my son said, pleased. i chuckled in response, but was puzzled, actually.
for a long time, we lay silent. then, i turned to my side; and with the back of my hand, i stroked his tiny, heated forehead. it wasn’t hard to notice that he was feeling desperate, from how he moved his eyebrows beneath my knuckles. maybe he worried about the universe and passing of time as i did, maybe he sensed my fear.
maybe he knew i hadn’t rested like he had, for a long time, now.
“how are you, son?” i asked him, but he did not answer. i sighed – carefully, afraid to make him hear it. he then sighed his childish sigh, paused and looked at me.
“what are stars made of?”
“star stuff.”, i replied – i didn’t know much about it.
clearly not satisfied, jonathan raised his busy eyebrows. “duh, so what is star stuff made of?”
“honestly, i can’t explain. but i know that stars combine the smallest particles, they produce the elements and different atoms that – again – combine into everything we know on this earth.” i had read that in magazines. “stars make the stuff that stones and plants are made of. and water. and air. and animals.”
“are we made of stars, too?”
“yes, we are, jonathan.”
he smiled. for years – it seemed – my son had smiled, again. he turned his head and looked at me and i just smiled and we smiled forever at the stars.