“I FOUND IT!” he yelled.
His little hand slipped over the edge of the sidewalk and down between the automobile’s tire and the curb. I stopped walking, not believing it possible. But he turned around, looked up at me with huge eyes and a ‘told you so’ smile and showed me the little piece of plastic. Sure enough, he had retrieved the tiny toy. He had others – not just others kind of like it – but plenty of other little three quarter inch pieces that were exactly the same. In my mind it was a ridiculously insignificant nuisance of a play thing. To him, an important treasure.
You see, five days earlier, as we walked our daily route between his kindergarten and his sister’s elementary school, one of his Power Rangers lost a gun. Now, each Power Ranger came equipped with several guns. And these “guns” didn’t actually do anything. They were just cheap little pieces of molded white plastic. But, bless this boy’s heart, one of these guns had gone missing and he was not going to stop searching until he found it.
Let me set the scene. We lived in Paris at the time. Not at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, or next to the Louvre. No, ours was just a typical neighborhood ~ shops on the ground floor, apartments above. So the route between the two schools brought us past a florist, a book store, a hairdresser...down sidewalks and in between parked cars. Sometimes we walked back and forth to school four times a day. And since the loss of the precious weapon, those trips had grown unbearably slow.
Because he was determined. One might say, obsessed. His sister probably did say obsessed. I can still hear myself telling him to let it go. That it was so silly to worry about such a little, unimportant play thing. That it was impossible to find it, given the number of cars that would have driven in and out of each spot. And given that in Paris they clean the streets, sidewalks and gutters so regularly. There was just no way. I was as sure of the impossibility as he was sure of the possibility.
It just burned inside of him. You’d think that after twenty-four hours a five year old would have forgotten all about it. But not him. Never. His intensity to get a result ran deep. Sometimes it was just a child’s longing to have something his way. But, often, it translated into an arduous desire to figure things out. To win. To learn. To complete a mission. To find things! And not because someone asked him to or expected it of him…but because he felt it. Or wanted it. And believed he could make it be so.
This piece of my son fascinates me. I was forty years or so past five years old when I began to know and to trust my own gut, my own heart like he does. It’s not in my nature to approach things passionately or spontaneously….or just because I want to. No, I weigh and I measure. I look around, acutely aware of the reactions and the expectations of others. And I hesitate, becoming unsure of myself. Even in this moment I wonder what I should say next...or if I should be writing at all!
I'd really like to wake up one day with the fervent spirit of that sidewalk-scanning-not-gonna-sleep-until-I-find-it little boy. But since that’s probably not going to happen any time soon, I’ll just watch his face as he watches a soccer ball. And follow his lead as I learn to listen to my own voice a little more each day.
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