day of the dead: thinking of danny hill

It happens to be the first day of November, Day of the Dead. And I happen to have found myself thinking of this:

When I was a first grader, a freckle-face boy with missing teeth gave me a geode.

The geode was small, a lumpy, gray tennis ball.

The geode’s hull possessed a window that afforded one a peek into its interior, a minute cave encrusted with colorless quartz crystals, a sparkling, granulated sugar landscape.

The boy told me it belonged to his big sister, which was irrelevant to us though she was no doubt an unwitting source and her brother a little thief.

The boy said the geode was for me. I accepted because I thought it was awesome – a round, gravel-colored rock with treasure inside.

My mother made me give it back the next day.

Soon after, the boy did not come back to class. He was killed – I was told it was a car accident.

So all of a sudden, he was gone. His name was Danny Hill.

50 years later, when I see a geode or a sparkling shard of a rock, dull on the outside, brilliant on the inside, I think of Danny.

My firstborn son happens to be named Daniel.

I always figured it was the name I heard on the radio while I was pregnant, hormone-charged and sentimental, but I am not entirely sure.

It might be an homage to a boy who must’ve liked me, back when death was so vague it held no sadness. But my memory of Danny – his face, his name and his gift – are crystal clear to this day.

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