On a Sunday, not long ago, we went fishing. My son is not yet a fisherman. He did spend a lot of time and energy digging a hole in the sand. Easier to focus on the hole in front of you than try to make out the shapes in the fog.
He is no longer a little boy. His world keeps getting larger, bigger, more intimidating. He used to cry about the idea of growing up. He said he wanted to be a little kid forever. He embraces this desire like a favorite stuffed animal. He is not like most boys of 12. He clings to childhood with a fierce dependence. Childhood is more predictable. Less is expected of you. It’s easier to get by on good looks, quirkiness and a certain measure of charm.
Nothing stops the march of time. All are carried by the years. Wishing to remain a child forever is a wish that is only fulfilled in fairy tales. My private fairy tales give me back a truth wrapped in fiction that I can carry around inside me like a seed. It sprouts, takes root and fills me with branches and leaves. I climb inside. Some times, I dig holes in the sand. I want to plant my fairy tale tree alongside a river. I my fairy tale wishes to come true. I want to remain innocent and young forever.
Maturity takes this pretty tree from me. It presents a new life, a new way of being, a landscape with no room for trees. Maturity demands personal responsibility. It gives me power over my own life. Sometimes, I’m afraid of this. I’m sure this power frightens my son.
At times, I travel back in time through the portal of memory. Grasping for an innocence and simplicity that I can not have again but don’t want to let go. It is no wonder that my son mimics some of my sentimental desires. These little trees are ours. We fear letting them go. We wonder what will take their place that can be better than our little fairy tales.
Maybe one of the most important lessons life is trying to teach me is that “I have to let go of what I have in order to “get” anything.”
Every day is a new chance for me to learn how to let go. Life prepares me for the final surrender. I can not control time, or aging. I can not control the process of change. I have no power over physical death, natural disasters, the price of bread or what fairy tales other people believe.
I can only control how I rise to the occasion, how I react, how I respond. Each day, I’m given the opportunity to look into the mirror and acknowledge the person who looks back. Each day, countless times a day, I make the choice whether I escape by wishing away the realities of life or if I embrace them and see them as special opportunities meant only for me. It sounds better than it feels. Special opportunities can feel like nasty burdens or handicaps. Seeing an opportunity within can be painfully difficult.
My son’s desire to be a kid forever. . . well I can really relate. Fortunately, I know that it really isn’t in his best interests or in mine. I know how valuable maturity is and how I still struggle to achieve it. My words to him will always be less powerful than my actions. I must see my fairy tale for what it is. I must stop digging holes in the sand by the river. Through the fog, I hear a call from a distant shore. I continue the journey, hoping my son will follow.