Before we eat, Ruban Nielson’s son, Moe, leads us in a blessing. “For trees so tall and skies so blue, for friends and food we thank you,” he sings, in angelic unison with his younger sister, Iris. It’s Moe’s sixth birthday, an occasion for which he’s requested only French fries from a drive-in near the family’s home just outside Portland, Oregon. To round out his dinner, his parents picked up cheeseburgers and cookies as well. “Six,” Nielson says, marveling at his son as he disassembles his food, layer by greasy layer. “I can’t believe it. I remember when I could hold you in my hand. Isn’t that crazy?”
Moe giggles. This disarmingly clear March day is spent as a family, with Nielson—the 35-year-old voice and mind behind Unknown Mortal Orchestra—helping his wife, Jenny, carefully piece together Moe’s gift, a small geodesic dome. As they watch it take shape in the backyard, the kids chase each other in the grass and hang from a tire swing sueded in moss.