Friday, February 6, 2015

The Unintended

I blundered into all this.  I thought I'd be all cutesy and funny and stuff, showing you the creations and imaginings of the boys' young minds.  Honestly, that part went well.  Unintentionally though, behind the images I'd shown, I found myself peering out.  Out from behind a tree, out from a face in family drawing, out from under a shed, out from their present and into my past.

With no idea it would happen, I began seeing the stories.  First the story of something they'd created, then some stories I made up about how things may someday be, and then... I began to see my stories, my childhood, my history, my dreams and hopes, begin to mingle with theirs.  It is a tricky place to navigate sometimes.

You see, until I had kids, I hadn't thought much at all about my childhood.  I didn't see it, as a young single man, as a useful tool for fixing and maintaining my adult life.  For instance, I never considered learning to tie my shoes as a kid, and, if I did, I would have seen it as just another lesson childhood taught.  Now I see how difficult and frustrating it is and, I remember now, how damn hard it was.  In my mind, before I had children, growing up was just a necessary learning period, an apprenticeship of sorts, training to be grown up.  It's a silly perspective in retrospect, but the 'now' consumed me then, so much to do, so many to meet, so much to experience, so many to love.

It all began because I started looking at things carefully.  When they used Crayons, I remembered using Crayons.  Their baseball glove became mine.  We walked the sames creeks, struggled up the same long hills on a bike, shared the same fantasies of the big hit, the big play, the pretty girl.  I don't think I'd have recognized all this if I hadn't become vested in the the things they made.  I watched them carefully, for all the right reasons, of course, but also with a selfishness I've not admitted before.  An eager hope that I would somehow find myself in them.

My childhood was fine, don't get me wrong, but even the best times are laced with sorrow and loneliness, anxiety, fear.  The boys have been suffering some anxiety about the barrage of testing that is coming their way in the next few weeks.  Frankly, I couldn't care less about how well they do.  I know them.  I know they are smart and all.  We talked a little about it the other day and what they seem to be most worried about is that they are not ready, "unprepared" Nick said.

I'd been out from school with a sore throat for a few days.  I returned on Friday and there was a big test I knew nothing about, a science test about the layers of the earth's crust and all that.  I remember I'd seen the diagram in the textbook and I did the best I could.  I also remember a tear falling on to the purple mimeographed paper and smearing as I hurried to wipe it with the tattered sleeve of my sweatshirt.  I was scared I'd get a bad grade, I was frustrated that I didn't know there was a test, and my heart ached at the unfairness of it all.

As I watched Nick tell me through sobs, as Zack listened tears in his eyes, how he felt, I remembered my own feelings of injustice.  I saw so clearly that purple stain on that long forgotten test, and I wept again, with them.  For a few minutes we were three little boys, lost, afraid, confused.  I told them the story, I told them I understood - which may be a lie, I told them I believed them, I told them I loved them and I silently vowed to help them as best I could.

It is just a little story, maybe not even a good one, but I do not think I would have told it, probably wouldn't have even remembered it, if I hadn't started looking around for things to write about over three years ago.

I sometimes think we are under the impression that we mature, as though it is something we do.  In my case, though, life is maturing me.  I see and feel and understand and love things not because of some clever decision I've made to do so.  No.  Life reveals things to me when I need them.  It is, however, my duty to look for them, to welcome life's lessons and reminders, to embrace childhood memories, good or bad, to wallow in the sadness of growing up, to revel at the newness of it all, to cry again somewhere between then and now.

This transition would be a lot better if the test I'd not known about had been a Social Studies test, say, perhaps on the Bill of Rights...

Or even a test on annoying Frenchmen:

But, it's not that easy sometimes.  And, sometimes you have to twist and bend life a bit to learn the lessons.  And, sometimes you just gotta write bad transitions...

From Marci's  "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

"That is SO not on my bucket list."

*who knew 9yr olds have bucket lists*

If I had to wish one thing for you today it would be this, remember deeply and go where you are taken - that's two things, I know...  Thanks for coming by.


  1. Bill that was such a sweet story you shared about being there for your boys. I love how you didn't dismiss their fears or brush them off, but that you saw it through THEIR eyes - dude I'd say you're being an awesome parent! :)

  2. Bill, I love this perspective that they are a lens through which we look at ourselves. Amazing, amazing post.

  3. Sometimes I think parenting teaches us more about life and ourselves than it does for our kids.