Paradise Lost

Haven’t been posting much lately.  Haven’t been writing much lately.  Haven’t even been reading much lately.

Yeah, sure, things have been busy.  Start of a new school year.  Summer fading, packing up all the things that we play with and love and enjoy so much during the summer, those little things that make life so worth living in the summer.  But that’s not it.

The small death of winter approaches, leaden skies, endless rain, mold, mildew, tiny half-hidden spiny legs barely seen in the dark spaces under the stairs.  We’re hunkering in.   Slipping our arms into the sleeves of our old bunker mentality.  Erasing those transient laugh lines and re-exposing the old, well-worn furrows that complement the frown, the narrowed eye, the beetled brow.

The small death of winter is coming, and it’s not coming alone.

School’s started again, and that’s a lift.  We’ve overdone the togetherness for a bit; a little separation is a good thing.  The daily pattern of life will smooth out, become more routine, predictable, and later boring.  But for now it’s good.

“Kids need Structure!” they say with a cheery lilt in their voice, and I am perfectly willing to believe them.  But that’s the death knell for freewheeling play, spontaneous fun, for Kidness.  Boot Camp for Adulthood is what it is.

When does Real Fun disappear from our repertoire?  We have it as kids.  That effortless, unwitting devotion of every fiber of your being to the play you’re engaged in right now.  Beyond the fence of this yard, the walls of this treehouse, the pillows of this fort; there is nothing.  Anything else out there would be a distraction, a bummer, a buzzkill.  Debby Downer.

And leave us, this magical gift does.  For some kids, growing up in tough circumstances, it goes early.  “He didn’t have a childhood.”  We say.  For others in more fortunate circumstances, it lasts longer.

I find myself nagging my boy; “You have to be more mature now!  You’re eleven!” and I say it too loudly.

The school requires him to keep an agenda.  He has to plan assignments and work flow.   We buy him a watch, say; “You’re responsible for getting there on time!”

And then occasionally my wife cries, and sometimes my heart aches with a pain too exquisite to describe, and we say to each other in wonder and disbelief; “He’s getting so grown up!?”  And we cry, us two, not because of our own increasing age, not because of some clunky, Hollywood foreshadowing of death, but because for just the briefest instant, a faint memory of that endless, perfect, sunny, utopia washed, like a feeble ray of far-off sunshine, across the wall of the musty, subterranean chamber into which we so fastidiously walled ourselves.

The shining, innocent, trusting, unsuspecting face of our beautiful boy looks up at us and we cry the fat, salty tears of the traitors that we are.

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