“It’s over there,” he tells me, and then points a bony hand to the left side of the windshield.
“Don’t think we can get there from here,” I say.
My son wrinkles his brow. He knows I’m right; we’ve been on this road before. Many times.
“Can we park and walk?” he asks. “It’s not far, and Mr. Coyner won’t mind if we walk through his field.” He pauses and then adds, “Guess that means we’ll have to share with him, though.”
I nod and say “Guess so,” not surprised by his sense of fairness but still happy to see it in full display. There aren’t a lot of kids in this world who are okay with sharing. Especially when what they’re sharing could be millions of dollars.
The sun is out now, the air sticky and warm, a sharp contrast to what the weather was just a short time ago. The storm was a mean one, the sort of tempest that Virginia is known to have in springtime. Wind and water and thunder. It passed us over and rumbled away, leaving behind an eerie calm and a giant rainbow outside the kitchen window. I called the kids to have a look, more interested in their reactions than the rainbow itself.
My daughter ooh’d and ahh’d as she is wont to do. True to her artsy-fartsy personality, the immediately grabbed a notebook and began drawing one of her own.
My son? Not artsy-fartsy. He’s much more pragmatic regarding such things. I wasn’t surprised when he said, “I know where that ends.” He looked at me, smiling. “It ends right in Mr. Coyner’s field, doesn’t it?”
I looked. Sure enough, it did appear to end smack in the middle of Mr. Coyner’s field.
“Daddy?” he asked. I knew what was coming—“Wanna, you know, take a drive out there?”
To be honest, I didn’t. I had a lot to do. But then I realized that it had been a good long while since I’d gone looking for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. And besides, Mr. Coyner’s field was right down the road.
“Let’s go,” I told him.
Ten minutes later, we’re on a dirt road that is alive with birdsong. The field is just ahead. My son is telling me what he’s going to do with the money he finds. He’ll split some with Mr. Coyner, he tells me again. And of course there’s what’s due to God (“He made the rainbow, after all, so I reckon I’ll just give it to the church.”) And he was going to let me quit my job and just write books that everyone would read and let his mother quit teaching and we could all move to an island in the ocean and swim with dolphins.
I had to admit, it sounded pretty good.
Up ahead, the field.
He cranes his neck. Says, “Do you still see it, Daddy?”
“Nope,” I tell him. He sighs. “But maybe a rainbow is one of those things you can’t see if you’re right up on it.”
He nods, says I’m right, and I start to feel a little sorry for him.
I think about the homework assignment he did the other night. The lesson was about needs and wants, and he had to draw a picture of each. Under the Wants section, my son drew a cheeseburger. Under the Needs, a hundred dollar bill. That’s my son, the budding capitalist. His dream is to be rich.
The field now. No matter how philosophical I can be, no matter how much I lie this time, nothing I can say will convince him of anything other than the truth.
There is no rainbow.
And because there is no rainbow, there is no gold.
And because there is no gold, there will be no needs met for my son today.
“Well,” I tell him, “at least we had a good walk.”
My son shrugs. His bottom lip is stuck outward. It’s his usual pouting posture.
I take his hand and say, “Come on, let’s go back home. Maybe we can have a little ice cream on the porch.”
He walks beside me, looking back over his shoulder every few steps. Just to make sure, he says.
Call it the first stage of an important lesson. Life is all about wants and needs and being able to tell the difference between the two. He has those a little mixed up at the moment, but he won’t for long.
He’ll learn as I’ve learned—that the dream isn’t something we need as much as something we want.
What we need is the journey to it.