Our Chickens Come Home to Roost
Our 24-year-old peripatetic son was home for a short visit this past week. My daughter and granddaughter were with us earlier that same week. It's great having a houseful of 'children' again, but it always seems a bit like victims returning to the scene of the crime with an axe to grind with the parental criminals. They eventually get around to rubbing our aging noses in past offenses and misdemeanors, not quite willing to let us or themselves forget.
Nate had time while he was here to browse some of the Fragments archives he doesn't have access to where he lives. He ran across a fairly recent post that I called "Urban Legends of Childhood", about things kids hear and about 'facts' that kids learn from mind-controlling parents (is there another kind?) and he reminded me of this little incident, a Rural Legend of sorts in our family.
We had just moved from town to 'the farm' in a part of southwest Virginia not very far from here, and were enjoying a beautiful early summer day on the deck. Nathan was not quite three years old, and this was one of the first days of unrestrained barefoot frolic in his new country back yard. Heck, there was 22 acres of back yard! He chased the cats under the porch, climbed into and through the big boxwood that grew by the driveway, and hunted in the clover for bumblebees, which he would pet with his chubby little finger. "They won't hurt me. They're my friends" he would say, and he never got stung.
"Nathan!" I called, and he came running on his stumpy little legs. "Did you know that if you flap your arms up and down, up and down, really really fast, you can fly?!"
His eyes went wide as silver dollars and he leapt off the two steps from the deck and commenced to become airborne. Without a trace of doubt as we watched amazed from our lawnchairs, his legs and arms churned the air as he ran back and forth under the old apple tree. "Faster! FASTER!" we exhorted. Back and forth he went. Finally, he collapsed with his wings and landing gear totally exhausted. Onlookers at the airport there were quick to praise him. "You darn near made it, boy. I thought you were about to head up over the barn there for a minute!"
He never fails to remind me of this. And I don't know exactly how guilty he wants me to feel about telling him this parental fairy tale, this little bit of trickery and magic long ago. I do know that for an instant, he knew he could fly. And somehow, I don't think that hope every quite left him. Both of our children have grown wings, metaphorically, and have taken great leaps into the unknown, and staid aloft in most graceful flight. And I wonder, when their time comes, and their stocky little 3-year-old runs barefoot in the yard on a summer day... will they tell her she can fly? I hope so.