When my godson, Rob, was 4 years old, he was fascinated with bones. His mother had introduced him to a local shop that sold fossils and other geological artifacts, and Rob got hooked. He acquired a few tiny bird skulls, a few small shark teeth, and various delicate pieces of cartilage from god knows what. I contributed to his growing collection with a real prize from my father’s art studio – a steer skull homage to Georgia O’Keeffe.

It was during Rob’s brief bone-fascination period that his mother, Nancy, received news of the death of her friend, Carlos. Sensitive to his mother’s loss, Rob quietly asked her what would become of Carlos’ body. “He’ll be buried, honey,” Nancy replied. Rob considered this for a moment, and then asked tentatively, hopefully, “Could I have his jaw?”

Here was a young child’s innocent curiosity in the structure of things, an adoration of the natural world, and not — I’m happy to assure you — the macabre obsessions of a future serial killer.

Rob left for college last week. His major? Science, of course.