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He is my cousin. If we were a different family, I’d probably refer to him as “my step second cousin.” But in this family, he’s my little cousin. He’s five, with an impish grin and a tongue that sticks out when he’s thinking.

He became my nature and rock hound com padre. My family (Mom, Dad, Brother) had been to a rock museum earlier that day, spending several blissful hours looking at all its magnificent displays. That is what happens when your dad is a science teacher and your mom grew up an outdoorsman. Now, my cousin and I are wandering under the huge oak trees, examining bark, pine needles, and fuzzy leaves until the playground draws us in.

I hadn’t seen any agates yet, there in the pea gravel, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. I told him what to look for. That they were clear rocks, usually white-ish. I found the first ten or so, and then he started finding them on his own. After that, the trading began. If I found some good ones I wanted to keep (like the shards that almost glowed blue), I had to slip them into my pocket before we started trading our finds. But I didn’t mind. Like I told him, I had started my agate collection years ago, and he was just getting started.

Unlike most of my rock-hound-trainees, he got the word “agate” correct most of the time. On the off times, he called them “egglets.” My last trainee had called them “egg rocks” (he was three), so I figured it must be a little kid thing. I am reminded of the beauty of childhood, children, and giving. Later, I’ll give him one of my glow-in-the-dark rocks from the rock museum’s gift shop, and later, his mom will tell me how much he loved it (he slept with it that night, glowing in his hand). Later, I’ll see all his tiny agates glistening with water in the base of a crinkly water bottle. These are treasures, true treasures. And I feel renewed.