For 22 years I keep it, though I am sentimental about almost nothing, move it from house to house, to first apartment, college dorm, until this summer when I tuck it in the last bag of things the man takes from the house, finally return it. It is small and inexpensive and still a kind of message that, depending on the day, can be read as either I give up, or, I let go.
One weekend I take the small boy to where the pumpkins are, follow him as he runs around a maze made of hay, watch him as he weaves in and out of trees, eats a corndog at a picnic table, the bright red ketchup ringing the edge of his mouth. And while there he will want pinecones and leaves, stray bits of hay, smooth rocks found in road. He will want to save everything he can fit into the palm of my hand or his own small pockets, and I will think instead of other things I have held, tell him you can’t keep everything; you shouldn’t try. Pick one. Choose.
Yellow, after 22 years it still fit in the space of my palm comfortably, and so on that last day, I take it out of the bag twice. Amidst all the other stuff, he probably wouldn’t even notice it was there, if he remembered the story of it at all. Because as a message, it wasn’t one meant for him.
Both times, after I take it out, I put it back. And on that other day, when I watched the boy with his bright eyes and hands full of rock, I would think too of when that man had been a boy, all the scraps of his bright laughter I had saved. Of how hard it had been to put down.
Yet on the weekend when that summer finally tips into fall, russet leaves blanketing walkways, pumpkins on doorsteps, and some kind of coolness in the air, I let his voice be a season, passing, put my hands in my own empty pockets.
Choose, this time, me.