Window on his world
Image by Vengeance of Lego
Note from me:
Some of might or may possibly not know, but my oldest brother is a Sophomore at The University of Notre Dame. I read their quarterly magazine and one of the articles is on on millions of possibility of Lego. Enjoy.
My son, Bennett, has a fever these days and can not go to college. So I’m staying house with him. As I write this — on my laptop in the family space — he is playing on the floor at my feet.
My function is all false starts and detours. I tighten and loosen and adjust dozens of words, but cannot get the tension appropriate. Quickly it all feels as hopeless as the red plastic truck Bennett brought me last week. He broke off its wheels although “driving” (bouncing) it down the stairs and then left it on my operate bench in the basement along with his Mr. Potato Head (which was not broken, just missing its ears and eyes). My children have frequently brought me broken toys, expecting miracles. I fix what I can, recycle what I can and discard the rest.
The red truck was a lost trigger. Or possibly not. “That’s okay. I’ll hold it, Daddy,” Bennett had stated and carried it back upstairs to the playroom. I see it now hitched up to a 3-legged horse with a Star Wars character in the flatbed. Luke Skywalker seems to be lashing the horse with his light saber. I’m nonetheless not positive why the horse is standing upright, or how Bennett knew that it would. I just don’t see that way.
This morning, in spite of his illness, Bennett is happily lost amid two gallons of LEGO toys. He has no sense of time. We just located the toys at a garage sale, and their newness, the infinite possibilities, enthrall him. He sits rapt on the carpet inventing and quietly talking to himself — as if conferring with one more 6-year-old inventor.
Each 15 minutes or so, following he has clicked a handful of far more of the red, blue and green plastic pieces collectively, he shows me some thing. “Look Daddy. See this guy? He’s driving the ship.” Then a bit later: “Look Daddy I place a coffee maker on the main ship. But I put a lemonade maker on the shuttle.” “Which is the shuttle?” I ask, now understanding it was a rocket ship, rather than a sailing ship. “Here. Look!” he says, unhitching a red, match-box sized-platform from the main ship. A driver sits in a little chair, and I assume a green thimble-sized cylinder attached to the back is the lemonade maker. He flies the shuttle completely around the sofa, generating a whooshing noise all the while and pausing twice to fire imaginary machine guns at a couple of Hot Wheels automobiles below him. Then he lands it on my thigh. There he takes the driver out, straightens his legs, and walks him to my knee, which is now clearly a precipice seeking out on an alternate universe. An inch tall, the plastic, square-headed man surveys the messy terrain of the family space.
“He’s an explorer,” Bennett stated. “What kind of explorer?” I asked. “I do not know. Like a Energy Ranger or possibly an Indian,” he stated.
Effectively, I wasn’t expecting Meriwether Lewis, but the odd contrast of cultures fascinated me, as did the energy of Bennett’s raw imagination — all that he saw and discovered in a pile of discarded plastic LEGOs. He was the explorer who most impressed me. I adore how he gives himself over to his imagination.
Perhaps I need a box of LEGOs — to remember how to discover, how to see.
This feeling, this inability to see, is not new. I employed to get it a few years ago when I dropped Bennett off at the preschool at the college where I teach. Since it was a lab college there was a lengthy one-way teaching mirror in the front hallway. Students and parents could appear in at the kids without having them seeing us — our window was their mirror. But it took me numerous days to even notice this. I was often in a hurry. After the sign-in sheet, the hug, the nod to his teacher, I normally bolted off to my office with my briefcase to do important things.
But 1 day, on the way out, I paused for a moment and caught a glimpse of my distracted self in the window. That is not the way it is supposed to work. The little ones are supposed to see themselves on the other side. But when I took two actions toward my faint, self-absorbed reflection, it disappeared. My “I” yielded to my eye, which suddenly saw via to the planet on the other side, the world I so frequently just walked by: young children sprawled everywhere on the carpet in a type of wild and holy innocence — functioning wooden puzzles, reading board books, rocking dolls, singing silly songs. My God, they were delirious with curiosity, and I was thrown into their childhood, and my own, so abruptly that I discovered myself in tears.
What was it about this window?
I could see the children, but they couldn’t see me. If they attempted to appear back at me all they saw was themselves and their personal globe: Four-year-old Maggie, in pink, glittery slippers and a baggy, green velvet dress and two strings of white, plastic pearls, stirred a pan of air on a little wooden stove with a rubber spatula and intently adjusted the dials till the temperature was just right. Then James came running over with a small snake he had rolled from a ball of electric blue Play-Doh and popped it in Maggie’s pan. This perturbed her at 1st, but soon she began to stir it in and to readjust the dials. Bennett, who wore a black-and-silver stethoscope, sat cross-legged on the carpet subsequent to Maggie and diligently checked the heart price of the stuffed green dinosaur he was cradling. Then he tucked it into a wooden crib and whispered some thing to it — maybe a bedtime prayer.
How odd it was to see Bennett but not be noticed by him, to be in the very same room with him, yet not. When I got up to leave for the office, and was numerous feet away from the window, I again turned it into a mirror, once again caught my dim likeness in the glass. It was then that I ultimately saw the obvious: I was watching Bennett via the dim reflection of myself, weighing my own childhood against his, the identified against the unknown. That is a hard factor for parents — to cease seeing ourselves in our kids — our gifts and flaws. As they get older it’s challenging not to wonder if they will be blessed with your athletic or musical prowess, or damned by your impatience or depression.
But fortunately, the dimming mirror is also a sparkling clear window.
And I consider that was the supply of my tears that day — of my confusion and gratitude. I saw myself in the presence of these little little ones and wanted to crawl on all fours back into their globe, to dress myself up in their total surrender to the now, and in a type of vision that could turn Legos into spaceships and Play-Doh snakes into meals. When, I wonder, did I first begin to shed my sight, and my faith in the moment I was living in? When did my life initial commence to really feel like a sprawling “to do” list?
Like me, my personal dad sometimes struggled to see life’s blessings amid its burdens, and to shift from the I to the eye, from self to planet. He as well could get overwhelmed by work and the future, and struggle to get back to the present. Or at least that is how it seems now, in the shadows of memory. But that was all a lengthy time ago. He and Mom are close to 90 now. And though they have sharp minds and nevertheless swim most days, their bodies are wearing down as they method the deepest mystery of all.
It was just the blink of an eye even though –– just 40 years ago — that Dad was my age. And he at times picked me up at the lab preschool in Ames, Iowa, where he was a young pastor with a huge church and 4 sons. I can see him leaning on the chain-link fence on the edge of the preschool playground, watching me play freeze tag on the blacktop with my 4-year-old buddies. And there, in his sport coat and slacks, I imagine him waiting and watching us for just a couple of minutes prior to calling my name, prior to waving me in — just before hugging me, zipping up my open coat, adjusting my hat and taking me residence. Just a minute or two of pause, of revision, just before returning to genuine time.
Possibly it is simply because I’m now almost exactly in-between my son and father — 40 years older than Bennett and 40 years younger than my dad — that these modest moments appear sacred. This morning I’m asking yourself about how my dad located such moments along the way — amid the chaos of loved ones and church, amid all those sermons and meetings and potlucks. But I’m hoping he did on the edge of that playground — that my small pals and I, in our crazy games of tag and kickball, could, like Bennett did for me, somehow loosen the grip of time — giving him a moment of presence, of prayer.
By midmorning Bennett is nevertheless lost in his LEGOs. I tell him I’m going into the kitchen to clean the floor. He says “Okay,” but following about 10 minutes he calls in to me, “Where are you, Daddy?” “I’m in the kitchen,” I say. “Okay,” he says, once more seemingly happy. A few minutes later he carries in an armload of LEGO spaceships and shuttles, and sets up shop on the kitchen table. Quickly he is sailing off to other galaxies and planets whilst I scrub the floor on all fours. It is not lengthy just before he flies a single of his LEGO ships more than my head and dramatically ejects the pilot into my pail with a soapy kurplunk! and a squeal of laughter. “He cannot swim! He can’t swim!” I say. Bennett laughs.
The rest of the morning appears to pass quickly, or I barely notice that it is passing. Bennett keeps drawing me back into his play, and then I return back to cleaning. I know this is “parallel play,” and that I ought to be totally engaged with him rather than trying to finish my perform projects. But this is the best I can do these days. And he appears fairly pleased. Later, when I get out a sleeve of Ritz crackers and a bottle of 7-Up, he appears both excited and thankful for the basic snack. “I like staying house with you, Daddy,” he says, as he starts to make lean-tos and small towers out of the crackers. “Yeah, I like it also,” I say. His gratitude startles me and awakens my own. And once more, for a short moment, I can see just beyond my own reflection into a greater presence.
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