Wednesday, June 4, 2014

That Telling Moment

I guess any moment fully examined will show you its secrets. I watch and think and ponder over the boys far more than I would care to admit. That seems funny really, I was once an extraordinarily selfish person... oh, it wasn't as bad as all that, I just had a pretty high opinion of myself, still do I'd say.

So, if say, I look back on this long day at the incredibly crowded pool, and wish I could recount the comings and goings of dozens of boys and girls, mingling and playing and learning and sometimes hurting and alone. I look back and realize the complexity of it and I step away. I fold the memory up and slap it in my brain and file it away haphazardly, never, probably, to see it again... unless I need it.

I think about the span of this their third year of elementary school, the boys I saw off that first day cannot be these same two gangly, cheerful, openhearted, well, man-cubs. You can see the men they are to become just under the skin. You can see their minds grasping deeper meanings and wondering more difficult thoughts, growing, hardening, like the muscles of their long legs and backs. It is not my story to tell, I feel. It is mine to watch and consider but it is not mine to tell... unless I need to.

I see them both making faces into the mirror when they think no one is watching. Mean faces, silly faces, a single eyebrow arched, a perfect monkey face. I think about how essential that is, I relate it back to me and am afraid to think about it too hard. Childhood is weird and confounding and damnably difficult at times. The complexity of meaning and import that goes along with a boy making faces in a mirror is more than my heart can bear... unless I need to.

But I want to, I want to share a moment, two really, that, selfishly, I want to remember. But each is wrapped in the longer story that is my story, your story, Nick's story, Zack's story.

It happened in a baseball game. Zack was in center-field and a pretty good hit was arching his way, to his right and coming down fast. He ran toward it and slid open-gloved to snag it. We practice these over and over in the back yard, he loves sliding on his knees, it's a catch he's made dozens of times... he missed it.

A little later, I am fairly certain the bottom of the same inning, Nick fouled two down the first base line, barely missing the ump once - he apologized profusely - and then smacked one over the head of the fielder in center. Some classic cartoon bumbling and an overthrow found him rounding second and the third base coach was sending him home. He slid, the throw was late and... he hit an in-the-park home-run. No one saw that coming.

Two moments - the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory - in one inning, two brothers and two beaming, heartbroken parents.

Here's what else happened, what else I learned, they learned, we learned... there's more to every story which is why every moment has a story to tell.

After the game, Zack was upset. I wasn't sure if it was the mishandled catch or the fact that his brother got a serious hit. I asked him, my heart told me it was the catch. It was. He knew he should have snagged that ball.

"We've practiced those over and over Dad. I should have caught it."

 A lesson, a hard lesson, one of life's toughest - sometimes things just don't work out. Sometimes practice doesn't make perfect. Sometimes we fail, blatantly, obviously, fail. A lesson in humility that feeds the lesson of persistence that feeds the notion of self that reaches out, across the space between us, and sees the heart in front of us.  He will remember this missed catch when he sees someone else miss theirs, when he sees another struggle, when he sees an unfairness that cannot be changed, he'll remember this missed catch.

I asked him if he was upset about the home-run and he said, "Oh no, I'm glad he got it, it's just that, if only, I just wish I..." and he trailed off, his voice breaking, with a look of curious resolve. He'd accepted the lesson and the memory and had made it his own. A moment, brief, fleeting... telling.

Nick was proud of himself, he enjoyed the boys running out to smother him at home. It is rare to see jubilation as the one who invoked it. It is a nice feeling, and he let it sink in. Marci went to give him a hug and she said he was beaming. I went over to see him and he was happy, that glowing, barely contained joy that children so often express. They seem to quiver and hover. They are brighter, shinier from within. You can hear the dancing heart.

"Good job, Nick," I say quietly, looking him in the eye. He knows I am proud of him.

He bursts into a smile, wipes it away with a twinkle in his eye and says, "Well, looks like I'm outta my slump."

I know what he doing, it's exactly what I'd do, he's deflecting. The joy and attention are almost too much for him, he has it now, the moment, the memory and he needs to go on. He knows he can get back to it later - joy deferred, distilled, spread out over time, is still great joy.

Later, just before bed, Zack was brushing his teeth and Nick and I were alone at the table. I smile and say, "Dude, a home run?"

He doesn't really smile but his eyes do, just there, around the corners, as his mind caresses the moment. He gets serious though and says, quietly but with emotion, "Dad, it's over." And it is, for now. I doubt he said anything to his teachers, maybe he told a few friends, he's not said anything else about it in my presence.

Sometimes these boys are bigger men than I - that's the truth.

I while back Zack made a popup baseball field.  It's pretty nice:

And Nick made a nice campfire one:

I don't know, I just wanted a couple of images.  You know how I roll...

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

N:  Dad you are my minion.

Dad:  No, I don't want to be.

N:  Well, you are.

I feel more like a house-elf...

Thanks for thinking of me and stopping by. See you again soon.


  1. We have debates about minions, groupies and house elves.

  2. Some good lessons in here for a new dad. :)