Sunday, July 1, 2007
I spent a half hour a few weeks ago talking about the delicate art that fathers have: carrying sleeping children from the car to their beds. The image of it all is seamless…your little head falls onto his shoulder into a sleep deep enough to feel like you are still dreaming but light enough to know that you are in your dad’s arms. Sheltered. Protected. As he places you onto your bed and pulls your shoes off, you barely know what is happening. All you know is that you don’t have to worry; you are safe.
I have lived in the city for 4 years and finally feel like I can call it my home, not just a temporary stop on my way to Real Life. At the same time, the nasty word of change is whispering into my ear. As I commit to this city I love, that means I become of fixture of watching the change that is synonymous with New York: losing friends to other cities, testing the outer boroughs, finding an affordable apartment, did I mention losing friends to other cities? Despite my love affair with New York, lately I’ve wanted to close my eyes and transport myself to the safety that accompanied childhood: knowing that I could fall asleep when I got tired and be carried up all the stairs and tucked into bed without a worry.
I feel like my reading life and actual life keep overlapping. I connected more this week with Oskar Schell, age eight of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close than any actual person in my life. Yes, he is eight. But a very precocious and articulate eight. The book chronicles the days of his life when he is first separated from the blanket of security only found in children who play and imagine away and leave all the heavy thinking up to their parents, who carry them through it all while they sleep.
Oskar lost his father on September 11. Clearly, his weariness goes much deeper than I can imagine. His poignant story, overlapping with those of his grandparents, pinpoints the devastation of loss. The degree of devastation that Oskar has experienced I have not. But the feeling of being a bit lost in a world that all of a sudden seems big, unpredictable and dangerous I have. And sweet Oskar, despite his fear of what he knows and what he does not know does his best to be brave and trust in something bigger than he.
And I suppose that is what adult life is about…making my way in a world that I will never fully understand. But I wonder if I am not alone in my longing to escape just for a little bit. To forget what I know about heartache and tragedy and just be carried. But to do so would prevent learning or growth or process. To do so would be to miss the small beauties of life.
So, for now I will let the smell of the soil on Rector Street (I promise it really is there) take me back to summer nights in Centerville, Ohio. I will allow the sleepy kids I see remind me of the trips from the garage to my bed. I will be thankful that I have known safety and I will do my best to trust in what is Good and True and Real.