There is a methodist church nearby that has a large grassy area in front of it. Years and years ago, they turned it into a memorial arboretum. Any time a church member passed away, they planted a tree. One, which was planted some time ago and has grown to giant proportions, produces really big pine cones -almost a foot tall.
Noah really wanted one of those pinecones. Her daycare was on the same grounds and on her first day she asked about the pine cones and was told that the groundskeeper collected them whenever they fell and they were kept as school property to prevent children from fighting over them. Noah didn’t like this option.
Every afternoon, when I picked her up at daycare, she would ask to walk around the grounds for a few minutes before getting into the car. Just to stretch her legs, of course. But somehow her walk always took her around that tree.
Then one day, after almost a year -a year of this! -it happened. Not one, but three of those giant pinecones had hit the ground and she found them before the groundskeeper.
They are so big, and rather sharp too, that she couldn’t gather them all up in her four-year-old arms. One would pop out and she’d try to catch it and end up dropping another. She managed to stagger along like this for about ten feet. She was just frantic, convinced that the groundskeeper would materialize at any moment and snatch away her prizes. (In reality, he was a rather nice gentleman who always gave her a rose, trimmed of thorns, whenever he saw her. But at that moment, to Noah he would be a pinecone-seizing demon incarnate.)
She looked at me with tears -actual tears -brimming over, and begged me for help. Of course, I immediately took charge of two of those awkward pokey-death pods while she hugged the third in her jacket and we hastened to the car, secret agent style. Only when we were safely down the road a ways, did she let out a deep breath of relief and begin to wonder and crow over her contraband.
That was about three years ago. I wonder if she even remembers these things. Last fall I gave one to her older brother when he asked if he could have one. I honestly don’t remember what happened to the second. But the third and last lives atop the cabinet where I keep my dad’s antique violins and mandolins and other memorabilia. I don’t know that she even remembers the year she was obsessed with obtaining a giant pinecone, how triumphant it was to finally obtain one and the urgency to get her covered cone away to safety. I don’t know if she even knows it’s there. But I will probably keep that pinecone forever, just to help me remember that day. She was four years old, fighting the big world with rules and dumb policies about pinecones, and she won.