I’m leaning against a shovel in the backyard, waiting. My two children are crouched in front of me. Serious looks adorn their normally jovial faces. Which is appropriate, given that this is a serious situation. For in front of us is the object of a week’s worth of contemplation, suspense, and puzzlement.
Some background: the hole appeared suddenly last Saturday, midway between the oak tree and the creek. The kids took turns trying to figure out exactly what sort of hole it was. Too small for gophers, said my son. And too big for ants, said my daughter. I was brought in for a consultation, but my vote for field mice was quickly shot down. Too boring, they said.
There was a chance, I offered, that the hole had been there all along. That it wasn’t new, but merely overlooked. And that whatever was in there was likely long gone. My son decided to fill the hole, and after much deliberation a consensus was reached. In went handfuls of small rocks and sand.
Upon inspection the next day, the rocks and sand were gone. The hole wasn’t.
This new development sent the children into a mild form of panic, complete with girlish squeals and boyish cries of “Awesome!” Something surely had to be in there. Had to.
In the space of mere moments, the hole in our backyard ceased to be a hole entirely. It was now and utter and complete Mystery.
The tiny but growing minds of my children sprang into action. They tried the scientific approach first. The hole was two inches square (they measured) and eight inches deep (an estimate, given the twig my son shoved into it), at which point it seemed to branch off and run parallel to the yard. Interesting.
Then science gave way to wonder. My son hypothesized that it certainly looked like a dragon hole to him, because he had seen this sort of thing on a cartoon. Then my daughter said that she had recently read a book about fairies, and how fairies lived in the ground sometimes, and how that was just the sort of hole in which a fairy would live. More interesting.
In the end, they put a tiny umbrella over the hole to protect its owner from the elements, along with a piece of cheese as an apology for wrecking its home with rocks and sand.
Mini vigils were instituted. The hole was checked every day before and after school, and a smooth layer of wet sand was placed around it so they could check for tracks. And there were tracks. Indecipherable tracks, but tracks nonetheless. Further proof that something was lurking somewhere. (The piece of cheese, by the way, was left untouched and instead froze into a tiny yellow brick. The apology, it seemed, was not accepted.)
Soon, questions gave rise to concerns. The weatherman said snow was coming. Which, I was informed, was bad for fairies and dragons. Maybe we should take the hole inside and keep it warm, the kids said. A possibility, so long as it really was a fairy hole. We didn’t need any dragons flying around.
What to do?
It was then that I offered my own advice, albeit half-heartedly:
“Let’s just dig up the hole and see what’s in it.”
Naturally, their answer was the exact opposite of what I thought it would be. They agreed.
So, here we stand. At the hole. Ready to put an end to the mystery once and for all. Yet as I raise the shovel for the first dig, I notice that my son is crying. And that the top lip of my normally stoic daughter is quivering.
I smile. What’s wrong? What I wanted to be wrong. What I hoped would be wrong.
They don’t want the mystery to end. Some answers are fine. But all of them? Not so much. Finding out what’s in the hole would end all of the wondering and dreaming. Who wants that?
Life is much more than the finding of facts. It is the wondering of our inherent wonder. This hole is my children’s first sip of the mysterious, and I want them to drink deeply. It will teach them the blessings found in not having to know it all. And that life is not made more frightening by the unknown, just more beautiful.