My son, Max, the youngest of three and the only boy in our family, frequently inquires when he will have a brother. The answer my son is, sadly, never. This baby-making shop is closed. At 40, I’ve had enough adventures in pregnancy, labor, and delivery to last a lifetime. Max, always a good sport, compromises, asking me instead if we can navigate the neighborhood in search of new friends, since he can’t have a brother. That, I can oblige. He recently met a little boy named Arthur at the park, and he’s ready to adopt the kid. Not so fast, I tell him.
But his relationship with our friends’ son, Wekin, is probably the closest Maxwell will ever come to having a brother. And it’s pretty darn close. Kevin and Aui, Wekin’s mom and dad, are like a second family to my family, so naturally, I consider their son my second son. So that makes him Max’s brother, nearly. But they’re not your typical brothers.
For one, Max and Wekin get along like peanut butter and jelly. In the three-plus years they’ve been friends (Max was five in December, and Wekin turns five in October), I’ve never seen them fight. Not even a grumble between these two. And they share, almost too politely. When Max split his hot dog with Wekin at dinner tonight, I almost choked on my quesadilla. Max and hot dogs are like, well, peanut butter and jelly. Ok, enough of that unimaginative analogy.
Wekin calls Max “honey,” a term of endearment for all loved ones, his dad tells me. I don’t think my brothers (I have three) ever used a term of endearment toward each other in childhood, and certainly not “honey.” This brotherhood is singular.
Wekin’s momma is from Thailand, and his daddy, one of my dearest and oldest friends, is American. This January, while winter whipped Virginia, the three of them travelled halfway around the world (I think Kevin said 9,000 miles) to the steamy jungles of Thailand’s remote northeastern Isan area. Kevin stayed for two weeks, and then he returned to frigid February in the Mid-Atlantic to work and keep the family’s economy sustainable.
Wekin and mamma stayed in Thailand with Aui’s family, a Southeast Asian adventure for young Wekin with uncles, an aunt, doting grandparents, a new language, a new school, new friends, the occasional snake, chickens and roosters, evidently huge spiders, three dogs, and lots of toys. They stayed almost four months. The dogwoods were donning their blossoms and the daffodils sprouting up from the previously-frozen earth before their planned return to Virginia. The separation on this side of the world was hardest on Kevin, but Max suffered, as well.
“When’s Wekin coming home?” became an almost-daily mantra. Several months slowly diminished to a couple of weeks, then dwindled further to a couple of days, and finally today, the boys were reunited. As I sat in the fresh spring grass of Wekin’s back yard this afternoon, watching the two boys play, a sweeping weeping willow protectively shaded us three. The world felt more balanced in that moment. The babbling water of the stone-encircled fish pond accompanied the boys’ quiet giggles and hushed voices, and Buddha watched peacefully over us all. Literally. There’s a statue of Buddha by the pond. It’s a little like heaven, I imagine.
While the Enlightened One watched over us, I watched over the boys as they built a castle in the sandbox for some lucky dinosaurs. I listened to them plan and work together, discussing and compromising over the project with maturity and patience that exceeded the expected capacity of their combined nine years. Such simplicity in their interactions for such a complex task–each dinosaur had to have his own entry way, and there’s quite a height differential between a T-Rex and a Raptorex. But they did it, and without a cross word between them. And now, as I sit writing this entry, they snuggle on the couch next to me, watching a video on a little iPad screen while momma and daddy sleep off some serious jet lag upstairs.
“Can you see?” Wekin asks Max. Max nods. Such consideration and grace in two young gentlemen.
It’s inspiring. It gives me hope. It makes me smile. Seriously.