Summer Days

by jkatejohnston

18 July 2015

Dear Max,

Teresa took Enzo to the California Museum, and in the gift shop they got a little kit for panning for gold. The pay dirt is included, along with a small vial for keeping your gold. Enzo held up the vial. “It’ll be worth thousands of dollars!”

I tried to talk him down from that hope, warning that it might just be a fleck or two of gold, not enough to fill the whole vial (which is about the size of his sperm donor vials, maybe 2 cc’s) but it would still be great—it would still be gold. And then he started talking about all the gold in the American River, he’s seen it, it’s there. And it’s true that when you stir up the sand tiny flakes of Pyrite (I had to look that up) float in the clear water and catch the sun and then settle to the bottom. Or maybe that’s in Trout Creek, up in Tahoe. I’m not sure about our river.

I reminded him about fool’s gold.

“Does anyone ever mine for fool’s gold?”

“I don’t know.”

“Does fool’s gold float?” Then he described some system of colanders and strainers to be employed down by the river and how we could sell the fool’s gold and people could put it in their hair.

I got out my jewelry box and showed him Grandma Clara’s gold wedding band and bracelet. He put them on and showed the dogs. In a low voice: “It’s real gold.” He wore the bracelet to bed, and he’s wearing it now, so pretty on his brown forearm. “I might be wearin’ this to summer camp.”

I couldn’t find Grandma Maxine’s gold nugget earrings. I’ll find them today, and he’ll be over the moon.

I just asked him about the fool’s gold in the hair idea, and he said, “No, that’s regular gold. Like to curl it. Hair barrettes. Everything.”

18 July 2015

Dear Max,

I took Enzo to a birthday pool party. When it was almost time to go I gave him a ten minute warning. Time passed. I looked for him. All the kids were clustered around the steps of the pool—about ten kids, but not Enzo. I looked around. He was halfway to the deep end, about two feet under water, on his back, moving only a little. On the surface right about his face and shoulders was a toddler’s mostly deflated pool toy. I ran over, stepped into the water in my leather sandals and skirt (there was a ledge there about two feet deep) and pulled him up. He was startled, then: “You found me!”


“I fooled you.”

“Don’t you ever ever ever pretend to be in trouble in the water.” My heart was pounding. My arms and legs felt bendy and weak.

He explained that he wasn’t pretending to drown, he was hiding so that we wouldn’t have to leave. “I was breathing the whole time—undetected by you.” It seems he was coming up for air periodically and breathing through the leg hole of the toddler’s pool toy and then sinking down again, trying to be as still as possible. I told him never ever ever ever hide in water. What if he got stuck under something?

Afterward we stopped at the Red Sea Grocery Store. I got pomegranate molasses and labne and feta and cardamom. He got Hubba Bubba. I explained Ramadan, very lamely. I wasn’t sure if it was over yet and was ashamed to ask the people working there.

On the way home I was going about fifty on the freeway. Teresa will say that that’s about how fast I usually go on the freeway. But I think I was still shaken.