It is rare for my son and me to have time alone at home without Andrea and the girls. Gideon refers to this as “Lonely Time with Dad”. It is a regular request of his.

Every morning when he comes downstairs he sort of sheepishly looks up at me with very sad eyes and asks, “Daddy, do you have to work today?” and I sadly place a hand on his shoulder and say, “Yes, I’m sorry. I have to work today.” and then he groans and flops down on the nearest chair or couch and says, “But I wanted to have lonely time with you. Can you not work today, and tell the girls to drive away somewhere so we can have lonely time?” And I sit down next to him and say, “No. No, I can’t do that today.” and we sit there together for several minutes before I finally get up and go back to my desk, reluctantly closing the door behind me.

So, it was a big deal a few days ago when he came up to me on a Saturday after the girls had just driven away to attend a Tea Party and my little boy took a deep breath and said in a very forlorn voice, “Dad, I know you are going to probably say no, but I’m going to ask anyway… Do you have to work today?”And I blinked at him from across the kitchen table and said, “No.”

And he frowned and nodded down at his cereal bowl. “I thought so…”I leaned in to try to catch his eye as he poked at a marshmallow floating in his bowl of milk. “Gideon. I said, No. No as in, no I don’t have to work today. As in, Yes it’s just the two of us and we are free to do what ever we want today. I’m going make sure my office door is shut and I refuse to open it for the entire day.”

He looked up in surprise and then stared at the ceiling as he unraveled what I was saying, and then he smiled a strange little smile. “Wait, you don’t have to work today?”

“Right. That’s what I’m saying. I thought you realized this already.”

“Oh! No, I didn’t,” He laughed.

I finished buttering my toast and took a small bite. “So, what do you want to do?”

And he thought for only half a second before making his announcement, “I would like for you to help me do research.

“I choked on my toast. “What? Why? This is my day off, dude. I thought we would like, play a game or something.”

“Yes, okay. We can play a game later, but I need you to help me research first.””Do you even know what it means to research?”

He shrugged, “Like, I need you to type the words into the computer so I can find the things I need to know.”

“Okay, that’s research,” I shook my head in quiet dismay. “Well, who am I to deny my son knowledge? What is it you would like to know about?”

“I would like to know,” he said in a fumbling sort of sing-song voice, “how to make gunpowder.”

I was suddenly under the table coughing on the rest of my toast.

As I finally came back up, wide-eyed and delirious he said, “I thiiiiiink it’s made out of dirt, and salt, and maybe sugar.”

“What?!” I shouted, coming around the table to grab his boney little shoulders. “What?! Are?! You?! Talking about?!”He seemed baffled by my response. “Gunpowder, like in guns and grenades and things.”

I slid down onto the floor next to his chair and then a few deep breaths later I asked curiously, “You said, dirt and salt and what again?” I ran a hand over my face.

“Sugar maybe?” he sounded unsure, but not as unsure as he probably should have sounded.

“Yeah, okay. Well… actually, yeah, that’s pretty close.

“He smiled and ate another spoon of his cereal.

I stood up and dusted myself off. “Okay,” I said finally, after watching the little man finish off his bowl of cereal and start to climb down from his chair. “Take your bowl to the sink and meet me downstairs. Let’s do some research and…” I sighed, “I’ll show you the secrets of gunpowder.”

He ran to the sink and tossed his plastic bowl like a frisbee on his way by. Then he collapsed down the stairs racing me to the computer.

An hour or so later I got a call from Andrea.

“How are you doing?” she asked.

“Me? Us? Oh… um, we are doing great,” I looked at the little boy that was sitting on my lap.

“What are you up to?”

In unison, the two of us looked at the screen. I had paused the video at the exact moment when a small pile of homemade black powder was starting to flame into ignition. “Um, you know, just stuff. Guy stuff.”

“Okay, well, I’m going to the store. Is there anything you would like me to pick up?”

“No,” I said, and then a moment later, as an afterthought, I added, “Actually, well, not something I need, but… Anyway, can you just check to make sure that you don’t, under any circumstances, bring home potassium nitrate?”