The engine goes silent and the wet, hot air greets my face. I open my son’s door and unhook his straps. He scrambles down on to the black asphalt and walks a crooked trail, tracing the white stripe running parallel to our car. I tell him to go to the sidewalk, and he’s already almost there. I’m loading my pockets and arms with various pieces of lost luggage from the backseat: wrappers and treasures from the journey. Satisfied with the results, I give the door a nudge and follow my son. It’s always a challenge for my son. Those 30 steps to the front door are the liturgy of our days, and they never cease to yield up their wonders to a two year old boy. But this time something is different. There’s a new step in our dance, and my son is standing on the sidewalk laughing. A two year old can and does laugh. A two year old boy can be joked with, poked, tickled and cajoled into all manner of mirth, to be sure. But there are few instances in such a young man’s life where he voluntarily finds something funny apart from some outside intervention. But there stood my son laughing and pointing up at the tree. It was the same tree that daily stood sentry at the gate of our castle, guarding those three glorious steps that mark the infinity between the common world of the sidewalk and the sacred world of our beloved building “S”. And my son was pointing and laughing at the tree. I asked him what he was laughing at, and he pointed again emitting several words between his chuckles which I suppose explained the joke, but I had to ask again. Finally he told me it was the nose that was so funny. “The nose?” I asked, unfamiliar with the punch line. “The tree has a nose, daddy!” Tracing the extended digit through the air with my Euclidian Jedi skills, I found a branch which in addition to having the assorted arboreal vestments one might expect also had a rather large knot protruding from a slight bend in the neck. Without a doubt, the tree did in fact have a nose. Some man, some sweaty faced man once held a purring piece of metal to this tree and left it with this nose. Somehow I doubt he quite understood in that moment how he was the flick of the Creator’s wrist, a casual flash of vibrato in the midst of an infinite oratorio, a few wonder filled seconds of laughter for a two year old boy and his proud and grateful father.
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