Making melodies out of the humdrum.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


I remember the summer of 2006 very well.  June, July and August left Richmond, Virginia in a muggier standstill than I had bargained for.  I had left college, gone on, graduated as almost-22 year olds should, but for some reason I felt more certain that college had indeed, left me. Wiser people encouraged my melancholy self that summer with true words, the gist of which went: "The best is yet to come."  I shook my head certain that the best was over, and sincerely wondered whether life would ever get better than freshman year tailgates.   I guess tailgates were once so perfect because I was present to the novelty of being free and me and on my own more than ever before.  Still, I didn't quite know what I was about other than, well, the tailgate. Suffice it to say that I'm not so sure that shell of an ideal was enough to thrust my entire future onto like I did. Wise people that summer: thanks for your patience with me.  

Whenever life feels big and small all at once like it did then, I am comforted by the presence of children. Maybe because their lives are big and small too.  They are tiny and trusting and needy in a very small way, but their promise and the life they bring is great. That summer, I had two little ones by my side, five days a week.  At the time, Walker was four and Mckenzie was two and I took care of them as best I knew how. I remember the routine things that chipped away at those hazy mornings.  Mostly, it was Walker's "why's" that went like this: 
"Sarah why are we taking the green car instead of the big car?"
"Well because your mom has the big car, and remember I always drive the green car." 
"But I like the big car, better." 
"Walker, I'm sorry but if we don't drive the green car then we'd have to walk to the pool and that wouldn't be very fun." 
"Why...why...we have to walk to the pool and that wouldn't be very fun?"
"Well we'd have to walk to the pool because we'd have no other way of getting there and it wouldn't be very fun because it's one hundred degrees outside." 
"Why...why...why...wouldn't it be very fun because it's hundred degrees outside?" 
"Well, because when it's one hundred degrees outside we'd get really hot and sweaty." 
I'd think he was quenched. 
"Yes Walker?" 
"Why are we taking the green car?" 

That was before we had buckled up. 

If you're thinking that the on and on drove me b-a-n-a-n-a-s it didn't. I'm not trying to sound like I have such a way with kids or anything, it's just that Walker was a bit of kindred spirit, so I had extra patience. And that summer, with my looming future and all, I felt the "why-oh-why?" too. This circle game was round-a-bout yes, but so are true, four year old questions. He didn't have enough agenda to make them all straight-shooter and intentioned.  And the point was, after all, the questions. Beyond that, I learned, somewhere down into July, that my point to Walker's questions was this: telling Walker that he asked good questions, no, rather: "Walker you HAVE good questions," because until he spoke them out, they belonged to him, so:  "Thank you! Thank you Walker for asking me such smart questions," that must mean that:  "You, YOU are smartest four old I know," so now, as we are driving down River Road, almost to the Westwood Club, he feels safer, I can tell, and sits up taller with every: "Walker, I hope you ask me more questions."

Because you see, in between his little, jumbled up four year old ways were much, much bigger questions, that somehow, someway, were sneaking into my 22 year old questions that I felt only lying on my back in my bed, in the dark, blinds drawn. "Am I worth answering?" "Will you still love me if I ask one more time?" 

There is something tenacious about doubting-- even abrasive. Just trust! I had heard, before.  But sometimes I cannot. So I speak from my heart with questions that are real and sincere and of me, oftentimes so much so that they break my heart.  So I've found with this risky curiosity, that the doubts soften, and we live into them, growing softer and stronger.  

I cling to children that are growing into their questions this way like my four year old friend. The ones that are shedding their doubts, their defenses and their fears that they might get in trouble or go unnoticed.  They are undoing themselves so they might know how to tie themselves back up again. Please, let us encourage the undoing and not silence it. They are growing strong in their very vulnerability. An opportunity and window of existence that if we must re-create later in life, well we, just must.  Discovery and awe are too much a part of being human to just exist over it completely.  But if we're honest, it's most natural for our children.  Sacred even.  

So, let's remember to be curious with children, for children, to our children, even.  We do not have all the answers. The moment we think we do, we have drifted too far from our four year old self into a straight-shooting, rather planned out, small-windowed world. 

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