It was a small, smooth stone. Shaped like a flattened egg, it measured no more than two inches in length. At the lake, it could have been used as a skipping stone, but a decision had been made to save it instead. It had been stashed in the pocket of a fuzzy, fleece jacket and had remained there until its discovery, a few weeks later. The owner of the jacket was small as well. He loved the lake, and the trips that he would take there with his mother. When he found the stone in his pocket, he decided to put it on the shelf above his bed, along with a baseball that his father had caught for him at a ball game. When the weather turned cold, the boy no longer went to the lake as often.
One morning, the boy woke up and remembered the stone. He stood on his bed, pajamas loose around his hips, his feet bare and cold. Reaching up, he took the stone in his hand and sat back on his bed. Crossing his legs, he rubbed the stone between his fingers, marveling at its perfection. How many waves had caressed this rock, shaping it into this cool, opaque object of beauty? How long had the rock been tossed along on the shoreline, before he had scooped it up, taking it away from the place where it had belonged? Carefully, he dropped the stone within his bed sheets, creating a protective nest for it. Looking at it as he walked towards the bathroom, he thought of the lake. He thought of the feel of thick, grainy sand between his toes, the warmth of the sun on his back. He thought of his mother and of the wind blowing her hair, her face tilted towards him.
His splashed water on his face brushed his teeth and glanced at his face in the mirror.
Maybe he was looking older, beginning to change. He knew that one day, he would look into the mirror and decide that it was time to should shave. He wondered if he was beginning to look more like his father and less like his mother. He thought could see a hint of his father’s reflection as he turned his head and headed down the hall. The stone would not change. It would always look and feel like the object that he had found and kept. After dressing for school, the boy decided to picked up the stone, turning it and observing it from many angles. He lifted a sweatshirt from the floor, shrugged it on and put the stone in one of the front pockets.
His mother accepted his gift after he had rummaged for his backpack on the hooks by the back door. She straightened up, turned towards him and looked into his eyes. He could see that she, too, remembered the day at the lake. She took a minute to look at the stone, before she placed it in in a gilded, green bowl. The bowl contained keys, glasses and other things that she would commonly misplace, and so it was always on the table near the door.
As time passed, the boy would occasionally see his stone, if he happened to look in the bowl searching for his car keys, or a loose quarter for the parking meter. He became busy, and would not stop and study it in the same way that he had on the day he decided to give it to his mother. It was just a thing, no different than other things. Eventually, his mother would move the stone, placing it in a wooden box filled with other things. The box would be placed on a shelf in a dark part of the house. The boy would come home and then leave again for periods of time. He would eventually shave, and pack his clothes in a duffel bag and drive away from the home. He would find the girl who he would look at in the same way that he had once looked at his mother, that day at the lake. The stone would remain in the box.
The house became neater, sparer. One or two coats would hang by the back door. A small purse might be placed on the table by the door, and it would rest next to the gilded, green bowl. The boy’s bedroom would be simple, and used as a guest room for company. Sometimes, a few books were arranged on the shelf above the bed, but that was all. When the boy came home, he no longer felt in possession of the room. It was no longer his place.
The day that his mother found the stone was the day that she had removed the wooden box from the dark shelf. She had been packing her things in a cardboard container and had found the box, nestled next to a stack of old magazines. His mother sat on the floor cross-legged, and opened the box, lifting out the gray stone. She turned it over in her hands, looked at it for a long time. Eventually, she stood up, and then placed the stone carefully in the pocket of her cardigan.