My daughter and I are arguing about moonstones, she is newly sunburned, the rims of her round tomato cheeks are glistening in soft evening light, her hair is blonder than yesterday, her hand is stroking the soft fur of her stuffed panda.
“It's like moonlight is trapped inside the stone,” I explain, “like moonlight shining on water; if the rock is made into a ring it's like having a lake night on your finger.”
Her eyes are wide, she is looking at the ceiling.
“Does it glow in the dark?”
“Well... no. I guess not.”
“Then the light is not really trapped inside,” she proclaims and walks away with her chin up like she has fooled me, like she has won a medal.
We are nearly drowning in rocks.
They are rolling under beds, they are nestled in coat pockets, in pant pockets, in mini pockets on mini shirts, in the washer, in couch cracks, under pillows, in the dollhouse, they are in plastic bags in kitchen cupboards, they are scattered at the bottom of the toy box, they are in jewelery boxes, in handmade velvet pouches stitched with yarn, they are taped to rainbow paintings, there is one living in the pistachio bag. They are kept in the deepest corners of dresser drawers, they are caressed, polished, dried with paper towels, glued to necklace chains. Sometimes when I'm feeling overrun I will hurl them in the backyard only to find them, next day, in the bottom of a dirt-crumbly backpack or in a row on my kitchen table, like little soldiers. They are plucked from flower beds, and murky river banks, and dug out with sticks from the borders of large tree trunks, they are selected for their smoothness, their roughness, their colored streaks, because they look like dinosaur eggs, or hearts, or arrows, or pancakes. At bedtime we study the rock cycle beneath pink lamps, and try to pronounce the names of obscure gemstones. We distinguish sedimentary from metamorphic, we point out layers and watch limestone become marble, and shale become slate, we consume transformation. Rocks, their books say, reveal the story of the Earth! It happens because of heat and pressure and squeezing; it happens when old rocks melt into new rocks and little bits of rock waste away and fly with the wind and dog pile to become new rocks. We smash geodes with hammers and I watch the crystals shine in their miniature hands. It only takes a small crack for the mineral-rich water to get inside and that dull, gray thing becomes something that shimmers, a thousand facets reflecting light, shooting it a million different directions. We spend an entire afternoon learning about pearls, watching videos about their formation, how they begin as a nuisance, an irritation, a parasite that has wedged its way into the mollusk or oyster or clam and in his defense a layer forms hour after hour, day after day, year after year, and that pesky pain-in-the-neck becomes something indestructibly lustrous.
And so I think with a fearful reverence about the evolution of their own impermeability and how it will unfold before my eyes, and also in the darkness of dirty bedrooms, in muggy locker rooms, at lonely lunch tables, through a flat screen, a news alert, a death toll, a war winding up. Sometimes it is a trembly, daunting thing to know I will witness their innocence fade away, like sloughed-off skin.
Lately I scold them for wearing socks with their sandals, for the plaque left after a lazy brushing, for whining and tattling and not-tattling and nose-picking and pinching, and licking their plates and stealing daisies from the neighbor's garden.
“ ...but it does glow...” I say in faint desperation.
“under the sun, under a lamp...
it has to be in light
in order for you to see its light...
that's kinda cool isn't it? like a magic power?”
She turns around and cocks her head, eyes squinting,
“Yeah, that's KINda cool,” she says, “I guess so.”
Six years from now when there's acne and gangly boyfriends and failed test scores and backstabbers and hairy rumors I can see myself at noon in an empty house planting amethysts, and tigers' eyes, and rose quartz, and jasper and snowflake obsidian, and cracked geodes, and pearls and moonstones beneath their pillows, in their backpacks, in the toe of their sneakers, taping them to their i-pods, gluing them to their curling irons, tucking them tightly into the pockets of their frayed jeans.