I was standing on a step ladder setting up a weather station in my backyard when Lydia somehow snuck up behind me and asked a question that didn’t register immediately. I turned to look down at her and saw that she was knelt down near the fence, breaking off long pieces of unmowed grass and poking them into her mouth.
“Um, what are you doing?” I asked.
She squinted one eye and smiled up at me, twirling a stalk of grass between her lips. She held it up to show me and repeated her question, “Do you know why they put this in their mouths? You know like farmers and stuff. Why they do that?”
“Oh.” I put my screwdriver down and rubbed at my hand. “I guess it’s maybe because people like to have things in their mouth. Like a toothpick or gum or something. It’s just something people do. And if they are out in a field and there is a piece of wheat, why not chew on it or something.”
She spun the grass in her fingers and listened patiently. But, when I finally finished talking she took a deep breath and said, “Yeah. Nope.”
I was not expecting this. “Oh… Okay, I didn’t know this was a test. I thought you actually wanted to know the answer.”
She laughed awkwardly and then stopped abruptly. “No. I know the answer. Farmers put grass in their mouth because they want to show off to other farmers.”
I sat down on the top of the ladder and rested my chin in my hands, suddenly quite tired. “Okay, what in the world are you talking about?”
She held up a stalk of grass and talked to it rather than me. “Farmers like to grow things, right? And they grow things in the ground. But that’s easy. That’s where everything grows. The ground is boring… But if you go next door and you see a farmer and he waves and you see that he has wheat that is growing out of HIS MOUTH, you think ‘Wow! How is he doing that?! That man must be an amazing farmer! He even has grass growing out of his mouth! That’s impossible!’ And it is. It is impossible. Unless you happen to be a very very good farmer. So, people like to pretend to be very very good farmers by sticking long pieces of grass in their mouths.” She glanced sideways to see if I was still listening. I was still listening, but I had suddenly become lightheaded with confusion and was struggling to not fall off the top of my step ladder.
“Lydia?” I ran a hand across my forehead and carefully stepped down off the ladder. “Lydia…” I motioned for her to come closer. I put a hand on each of her shoulders and held her in front of me at arm’s length. “Lydia…”
I opened my mouth to reply, to somehow find the words to tell her that she was insane but I would always love her regardless. But all I could say was “Lydia…” as I felt a tightness in my chest and an itch deep behind my left eye and somehow, impossibly, miraculously, I felt a tingling of grass growing in the back of my throat.