~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

Almost Eight

March 19, 2020
Offer to return me to many moments of my childhood and I will cringe. But offer to return me to the age of almost eight and I will smile, nod, and skip right back to second grade.

And there I will sit at my too-big desk with my feet dangling from the chair, gazing out the window with a pencil fluttering through my fingers and enormous plans bubbling through my brain.

I'll sit there, right next to my son, who turns eight in just a few weeks. Together we'll develop our plans with the earnestness of an engineer and the dreaminess of a poet. We'll contemplate starting a landscaping business, traveling to Mars, composing piano sonatas, or building boats that run on sunshine. And we'll do this with absolute certainty that our dreams will all come true.

And then we'll roll up our sleeves and get to work. Happily, and without a doubt.

Every day I look into my son's eyes and I nearly fall to my knees. They seem so big and so clear right now, so filled with earnestness and inspiration. Some days I feel I could slip through his doe-like gaze and land right in the center of his soul.

He'll look up from his after-school bowl of Kix, gaze up at the ceiling, and say, "I have this great idea." And then in between slurps of cereal he'll describe in detail the music center he plans to build. Finally, he'll push away the milky bowl, pull out our long scroll of paper and his favorite markers, and begin scribbling.

"It will be called Hands-On Music," he'll declare, "and it will offer piano classes and trumpet concerts and we'll even have a music garden with benches where students can enjoy their snacks in the sun." (And yes, he says, he'll let me teach yoga there, if I absolutely must, as long as I promise not to complain about the music.)

The paper grows dense with lines. Rooms are rearranged to accommodate a cafe, a children's center, and, of course, a store. (There's always a store.) He furrows his brow, chews on the marker, and then begins labeling rooms. He sits there for an hour or more, designing. And then he rolls up his plans, tucks them into his backpack, and announces he'll take them to school tomorrow and share them with his friends. Who knows, maybe one or two will want to help him.

Another day he'll plan a voyage into the Amazon rain forest, a book he's going to write, or his latest time-travel experiment. When he's feeling really energetic, he'll grab a piece of paper and write, "Ways to Save the Earth." Then he'll list all the steps he plans to take to keep this planet spinning. (If there's not a store involved in these projects, there will most certainly be a club. And you will likely be invited to join.)

Almost eight, I've learned is a beautiful land where you have been gifted the clear-seeing eyes of a grownup, and yet you haven't yet left those magic years where fantasy and reality are all wrapped up in one beautiful adventure.

Almost eight-year-olds haven't yet been jaded by the doom-and-gloom naysayers of our grown-up world. They don't have an ounce of pessimism in their bones. They have confidence enough to carry us all. Injustice infuriates them. They know exactly how to right the world's wrongs. And they are absolutely sure they are up for the job.

I love the boldness of my son's plans. I love the clarity of his vision. I love his creativity, his determination, his passion, his sense of purpose. I love the way he zooms in on a problem and, without a blink, sets off to fix it.

But most of all, I admire his utter certainty. He has not a doubt in his mind that he won't be a concert pianist and an astronaut and an author and an architect and a grand-slam-winning tennis player and a store owner, and - in a nod to his younger days - also a train engineer and chainsaw tree cutter, all at once. Why in the world couldn't he be?

Here I am, tip-toeing through my day, doubting my actions, lowering my expectations, and occasionally fighting the urge to give up and just climb into bed. I worry, I second guess, I fear. I look down the road at the rest of my life and tremble over the uncertainties ahead.

And then my son comes bounding home from school, hungry and eager to share with me his new painting, and also his plans for printing, publishing, distributing and selling an entire book of poems (online and door-to-door), and I smile. He heartens me with his hope. He sweetens me with this plans. And he inspires me with his certainty that the world will all be his.

My son climbs into my lap (almost eight year olds still do that, thank heavens), and continues with his plans. I cradle my once-baby and not-yet-man in my arms, and I listen. My world brightens, my lungs fill with possibility, confidence settles in, and I feel almost eight again.