The charcoal grill survived the rusts of winter. With a little rinsing with the garden hose, the black, outdoor stove that is shaped like a UFO shinned up like new. Last fall, my partner’s little brother Arden, used the grill as a ‘cement mixer’. Ten year- old Arden was playing in the dirt in the back yard and decided to use the grill. Another summer seemed so far off. I didn’t care if he ruined the grill. I imagined I would buy a new one when the weather warmed again.
Arden reminded me of my own childhood. In the sandbox that my father had built for me, I worked with buckets, plastic shovels, and anything else I could get my imagination and little hands on. I was building the castles of dreams, and so was Arden. The memories came rushing back to my mind as I watched him alone in his imagination back there—simply building like grown men do.
Like a mason laying bricks, he used my silver garden shovel as a trowel and built a wall of stones that miraculously withstood the winds, snows and rains of the winter. He didn’t use all the ‘cement’ that was mixed in my charcoal grill and the dried, caked mud preserved the paint of the grill quite well during the winter.
Arden came over again this past weekend. He traveled on foot from his permanent home, just a few blocks away. He’s big enough now to come over here on his own, and often does just that.
I cry silent tears now that he is almost my height. No longer does the little boy believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny. He has moved onto imaginary construction jobs and cannot wait to get out of school so he can get rich. Adulthood is just moments away for him now. If only children would remain children, and not rush off to playing games of grown men.
Arden insisted on hosting a bar-b-q last weekend.
“Let’s grill and make Smores, Chals,” he insisted.
“I’m tired and don’t feel like crawling in and out of the window,” I explained.
“Don’t say that. You can’t be tired. I’ll do the cooking,” he insisted.
His older brother, B. said, “Not today, Arden. Maybe when it gets warmer.”
Despite B.’s orders, Arden talked me into cooking outdoors again. I looked at the facial hair that is growing above his lip and realized that it will not be long before he is fully grown and, like his older brother, will not be over to visit as much. He will have girlfriends and adolescence to tend to.
It was warm outside, the sky blue and the winds were relatively calm. We went to the supermarket and purchased a bag of charcoal that lights without the need for lighter fluids, a large pack of boneless chicken breasts, sausages, salmon, hamburger meat, red peppers, onions, marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate bars and non-stick aluminum foil. It proved to be an expensive outing, but worth every dime.
B. blames me for all the trouble Arden gets into at school. He said that Arden runs all over me and I do for him whatever he asks. It’s true, but I object to Bradley’s assumption that I created a bully monster in his little brother. Arden grew up in the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
He’s naturally hard core. Arden tells me that he has never lost a fight in his life and he knows how to punch someone if he has to. I tell him “That’s right. Don’t let them walk all over you.” I have no desire to see Arden grow up to become a man that everyone walks all over, like me.
In the kitchen, Arden is more talented than a gourmet chef. He knows exactly how much seasoning to add to the ground beef and he makes perfect patties with his bare hands. Even though I was too tired to grill, it didn’t matter, Arden was doing all the work.
I sat at the bedroom window after lighting the grill for Arden and watched as he carefully turned the chicken, hamburgers, salmon and sausages on the grill. Nothing burned. I handed the sauce out the window to him when it was time. He knew exactly how much to use.
I concluded by the time all the grilling was done Arden would be too tired to make the Smores. But, just as we had done when he was five, he stirred what remained of ashes of the charcoal and cut himself a roasting stick from the cherry tree next door.
He ran to the window with marshmallows on fire, like the little devil he is, and screamed, “Quick, Chals. Get the crackers. This one is ready.”
“Watch out! You are going to catch the curtain on fire!” I cried.
He laughed and quickly blew out the fire stick, spitting in my face.