Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Man of Plans

Last night I brought a bunch of old notebooks to my daughter’s soccer practice. As I sat in my car reading by the map light, I came across something that I wrote about my son almost five years ago. It was a good time to rediscover it; he had a hard day yesterday, so I’ve typed it up to give to him.

He stands four feet tall. The water has plastered his hair to his head. Seemingly all bones and skin, he is planted firmly under the spray. I can see evidence of the day on him: smudges of dirt, a fresh bruise on his leg, a spot of chocolate ice cream on his face.

It is difficult to hear what he is saying as his voice competes with the drumming water. After a long day, I just want to go sit down with a cup of tea. The light bounces off the chrome and glass, making me squint. The noise is so overwhelming that I feel it rather than hear it. But his enthusiasm compels me to stay and strain to catch his words.

As he tells me his latest idea, he is both dead serious and filled with joy. He is a man of plans and I never know what is going to come out of his seven-year-old mouth. It might be a plan to build a ship by hand and sail it away with the crew of second-grade friends he’s already enlisted, or to plant his own forest and live like Robin Hood.

This time, he is telling me that he is going to build a pyramid. He will experiment with sand and clay and cement until his blocks are perfect. He will use levers and ramps to lift them into place. He has learned everything he needs to know from books and TV shows. He goes on and on and on.

As his words mingle with the sound of the water, I stop listening and instead marvel at his supreme confidence. These are not dreams to him; they are plans. It never occurs to him that he cannot possibly carry them out.

What a luxury to have absolutely no sense of one’s limitations. His body is small and—to his mother’s eyes—so vulnerable as he stands naked in the shower. His mind, though, is huge and, for now at least, it’s invulnerable and filled with nothing but possibility.

Since I wrote this, he’s been through a 1000-mile move he didn’t want to make, followed by a school closure, meaning that he was at three different schools in three years. He’s been—and continues to be—bullied. He’s now riding the rollercoaster of adolescence.

Back then, his biggest worry was how to prevent his crew from getting scurvy on the long voyage (lemons, he told me) or how to get his hands on enough gray clay to build a model of Stonehenge in the backyard. Now he worries about grades and homework and the sometimes brutal social scene of twelve-year-olds. He is still a plan-maker and he has somehow managed to cling onto the amazing sense of self he had when he was younger, but his mind is not invulnerable anymore. But if we can get him through the next five or six years intact, he’ll be fine.

1 comment:

Hayley Townley, Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire! said...

It always amazes me when I read something you wrote that isn't to me. I love your way with words, but that would be why you are a writer - first and foremost - and then always-an-editor.

This one gave me goosebumps. Always remember, your most important job is a mom.