A human being should be able to
change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, design a building, conn a
ship, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort
the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve an
equation, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a
tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
- Robert A. Heinlein
When Hugh was about four, there was a period of a few months when he
Just recently, at the cusp of six, he has decided that he is done with his perennial nickname, Boosa. He received that odd appellation when he came home from the hospital because of Jar Jar Binks, the annoying comic relief effort from Star Wars Episode I the Phantom Menace, who put the suffix Ďsaí on every other thing he said. Freshly home from the theatre, his brother called him Hughsa Boosa, and it stuck. For years, this pet name was a fixed part of his identity. I was the daddy, Jan was the mommy, Keefe was the brother, and he was the Boosa. Its use served as a kind of demarcation line for the inner circle of close family friends, it distinguished itself from virtually every other young childís nickname Iíve heard by not being about food, and it showed up in more nonsense songs and rhymes than I can begin to count. But one day he told us all that he didnít want to be called Boosa anymore, and that was it. I suppose there is for all things a season. Goodness knows I couldnít still be calling him Boosa when I was picking him up at high school. Itís hard to break yourself of the habit of calling your child by a nickname, because it becomes so automatic. I find that for myself it slips out when Iím making up lyrics for the song on the radio and I need a name with two syllables, but I manage to catch myself as often as not and soon it will also be a thing of the vague past.
One difficult passage of grief for the household this month has been the demise of Exploratoy, the fantastic educational toy store thatís been only three blocks away for as long as weíve been parents. Right beside the grocery store we frequent, itís provided free entertainment over the years on the scale of a kindly and pleasantly eccentric aunt across the street who keeps exotic pets. Sure, there are other fine suppliers of smart toys locally, but none of them let you go in and play with the stuff, displaying whateverís new and neat on the counter and out of the box with fresh batteries inside for little hands to test drive. All of the staff clearly loved kids and spoke their language, and Cathy, the owner, knew most of the regulars by name and kept mental track of what their main interests were. I tell you, I would never have believed Iíd get all weepy over a toy store, as an adult no less, but every time I walk past whatever replaces it Iím going to want a black armband. They gift wrapped for free, donated to local school and community events, and had regular customer appreciation offers. No wonder they ran aground Ė the modern economy isnít designed to keep really human touches like that alive when soulless big box stores can whomp them with economies of scale and cheap part time staff that always look lightly tasered. I hope whatever life brings Cathy next is a reward for the humanity karma equity sheís banked in the time sheís been there, and even absent like the Boosa, her store will always be a part of our boys childhood.
Nearing twelve now, our elder son Keefe is starting to grow out of the Ďtoys are everythingí phase of his life anyway. He sometimes fluctuates so quickly between acting six and acting sixteen that every day is an interesting one, but the more mature side is slowly coming out on top. We still have frustrating pissing contests about all manner of dumb household details from time to time, but the general tone we are able to strike between us is getting so much better that I am reticent even to write about it. I donít want to jinx anything. Suffice to say that petty power struggles over homework or emptying the dishwasher is one of the easiest things of all to say goodbye to. Huzzah! Of course, thereís new adventures to replace them peeking over the hormonal horizon ahead, but thatís a whole Ďnother story.
This is the way that we move into the future, one step at a time, and
all the circumstances we leave moment by moment are a string of little
goodbyes. New vistas reveal themselves over the rise as the hill
obscures where weíve been, consigning it to the blur of memory. As one
very dear friend of mine appears to be on the brink of entering into a
relationship with the mother of two young children, Iíve been thinking
about the leap heís making. Say goodbye to free time as you know it
and prepare to plumb the depths of your creative and adaptive energies
as never before, I tell him. But waste no fear on your ability to do
it. Itís meaningless to wait for the ideal time or second guess how
youíre going to do things two steps down the road. Cooperate with
reality. Let life as you know it today slip from your fingers, and be
open to catching what life throws you tomorrow. Itís not only the only
way to be alive as a parent, itís the only way to be alive.
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