“I think,” I said into the air between us, “that it is time to plant the grass heads.”
“What do you mean?” asked my youngest son. “Plant them in the ground?”
“Exactly that,” I answered. “They are growing large and unruly. They are too big for their cups and need to be placed somewhere that allows them to grow.”
“But I don’t want to bury them,” he said.
“Not bury. Plant.”
“It’s like they’re dead,” he said. “When something dies we put it in the ground, and then it helps other things grow.”
“The grass heads aren’t dead. They are still alive.”
“Right,” I said. “Is this because you put faces on them?”
“They have feelings,” he said.
“Maybe,” I answered. “But I think they will feel better with more soil to live in. If we give them more room they can grow bigger. I bet that would feel nice.”
“We made them,” he said.
“And when they stretch from a headful of grass into a patch of lawn, something you can walk and play on, you will have made that, too.”
“It makes me sad to bury things.”
I watched his mind wander across the hills, up the coast, and through the mountains to the last place we called home, and I met him there beneath the bright falling leaves of the biggest cherry tree.
“I miss Harley,” he said, and I knew that he did.
Harley had been my dog for 16 years and the boys knew nothing but her. She had been their plaything, their playmate, a pillow, a comfort, a friend.
She had been all of that and more to me. Harley had joined me on my journey when I was fresh and ignorant, full of self-importance and mindless drift, and she stayed strong by my side while I found myself, and she was there still, the day she died in my arms on a patch of grass that nobody made.
We buried her beneath that cherry tree full of fruit and deep with roots, and I told the boys about circles, life, and you know the rest.
“The grass heads were meant for this,” I said. “They will give the yard an added meaning, and when they grow it will be from your hands and your stories.
“They won’t just live in your heart,” I added. “They will live right in front of you.”
The sentiment was deeper than the holes we would dig, and he slowly came around to it.
“We need to plant the grass heads,” he said to his older brother.
“Okay,” he replied.