Saturday, January 11, 2014

horizon is all we had

I was so preoccupied with helping him make it to the top, I didn't think about myself
--A Father's Words About His Son


One of the fixtures of my childhood was the legendary albino squirrel.
In our collective imaginations, there was only one of these rare creatures in the neighborhood, and a spotting of THE albino squirrel was something to write home about (or to shout triumphantly about on your arrival home, rubbing in the face of all who were absent that they missed something magical).

Coming home to a house that is vibrantly full of life, which you are not a part of for about 40 weeks of the year is a strange sensation.
You come back into old routines with a jolt, re-adjusting to The Way Things Were, while realizing that there have been subtle changes from the Way Things Were to the Way Things Are Now.

When I returned home from India this past summer,  I was 100% positive that my little siblings had missed me when one day, I woke them up for morning mass by playing a fun. song very loudly on my little sister's ipod-alarm-speaker-thing (technology. It's all so unclear), and starting an impromptu dance party in the middle of their room at 7:15am in the morning. I'm pretty positive their reaction to that performance was: Praise all that is good that our dear sister has returned safely, with dancing legs and singing tongue intact!, from India. What did we ever do without her?!
I'm certain that's what they were thinking, as they groggily threw pillows at me, trying to get me to stop.
I'm really good at reading people, you see.

Here is the strange, sad, beautiful, bizarre, [insert really any adjective you'd like here] truth about growing up, which is also a wonderful truth: the more time you spend away from home, the more you miss it.
And the family you leave behind isn't the same family which you left.
They're human beings, not ponds, so they don't sit there and stagnate, they change, they grow. They've had dinner conversations and negotiations and victories and sadnesses for which you weren't present.
And you realize that the three small children you have lived with all your life have grown up now into acutely interesting and beautiful human beings.
They are far enough off the ground that it hurts when they fall.
It is strange, and strangely humbling, to approach your ten-year-old brother as an outsider to his life.
You rely on him to make the choice to let you into his world, into the heart of his life.
Love impels us to take all sorts of risks.


When I was six, an hour is an eternity.
If you have an hour to yourself, you are richly blessed indeed.
You could sneak in an hour of clandestine playing, before your game would be discovered and forced to be put on pause for lunchtime or schooltime or bedtime or many of the various sundry commitments forced upon your six-year-old schedule.
It is hard to be a young child living in a world that is not fashioned for you, even time is measured differently by our small selves.
Just as anything on top of the refrigerator is tantalizingly above your head, so is the logic by which the adults who run your world are operating.

In six-year-old terms, where the big kids are the 10-year-olds and fourth graders, if you've somehow reached the mysterious age of seventeen (that's almost twenty!), you've reached unchartered territory of unimaginable greatness and grown-upness. 
But, looking back on seventeen from any age past seventeen, seventeen is pretty lackluster, as far as ages go.
When I look back on being seventeen, I remember a strange young girl who put off her trigonometry lesson until the end of the day each day for an entire school year, and who smiled more than she talked, and had hair that waffled between black and auburn for an entire year, thanks to the magic of Clairol's Natural Instincts Semi-Permanent Hair Color.
And although she slept in the same bed as I still do, and had many of the same aspirations, dreams, and even some of the same chronic nightmares, she seems like a world and a half away.

But, from a six-year-old's vantage point, anyone--even a strange seventeen-year-old--who can reach the top shelf of the cabinet is vested with undeniable glamor and power beyond comprehension.
I often wonder how much of adult society would make sense to a six-year-old, if anyone bothered to sit down and explain things like the electoral college, and gang violence, and cocktail parties.

But here's the advantage a six year old has over all of us:
they are closer to the ground, so it never hurts them as much to fall.
As we were ice skating, we were surrounded by little children, bundled up like marshmallows.
They fell on the ice with regularity, but would get back up again like nothing had happened.
They are so close to the ground, so that their tumbles are taken in stride.
If all of us remained like little children, close to the ground, all the falls we take would perhaps not be as painful.
But if we always hugged our mother earth, we would never reach the sky.
And I guess that's the trade-off.


I was running through the snow, because a run in the snow is one of the more refreshing things known to man.
And--there it was!
I saw, darting across my path, a little furry ball of clean, creamy-white fur.
I watched the legendary albino squirrel clamber across the icy street, and dash delicately over the firm snow.
And I texted my sister a victorious albino squirrel sighting text.
Some things, I thought satisfactorily, remain the same.

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