“Dad, when you were in school, were you popular?”
Well, you tell them, you weren’t one of the most popular kids, you always felt like an outsider, but you had a little group of kids who all thought they were outsiders too, and you hung around with them.
“Are they still your friends?”
No, you haven’t seen any of them since you became a grownup. Lots of times friends drift away as they get older. People go to different colleges, people move, people just develop different --
“When I grow up I’m still going to be friends with ________.”
That’s good, you hope so. “And even if you don’t see each other when you’re grownups, you’ll always remember that you were best friends your whole childhood. That’s a precious thing.”
You’re sticking to the facts and yet keeping all your answers optimistic. You admit that there are discomforts in life, but you portray the universe as essentially a friendly place, a place of happy endings -- for no one knows what happens when we die, and some people believe in heaven and others believe in reincarnation and many scientists think that all time is always present, which means we’re always here alive, or maybe trillions of years will pass in the blink of an eye and you’ll wake up in an entirely new universe, remembering nothing, but safe and alive.
“Think I’ll be popular when I’m in high school?” the older one asks, and says of his brother. “I’ll bet he’s going to have every girl in the school following after him, just like he has now. I probably won’t have that many.“
“But you’ll have real interesting ones,” you say.
“I think I’ll have maybe seven who have crushes on me, that’s all. And I decided for college I want to go to Harvard, or maybe Yale.”
The younger brother asks, “Why?”
“Because they’re the two best colleges, that’s why.”
“Then I’ll go there too. Then we can live together in the same apartment.”
“That’s be so awesome! Dad, think we have a good plan for college?”
Yes, you tell them, a fine plan. And the conversation ebbs a little, ebbs more -- it’s really getting late now, kids, it’s time to get to sleep -- the sound of torsos turning subsides, the sound of legs shifting subsides, in the silence you stand up slow-kneed, and as you’re cautiously straightening your legs from a crouch you whisper, “Good night, kids,” and you’ll share this conversation with your wife and smile dreamily and touch hands in bed, thinking of your plans, all your plans.