October 8, 2021 | OPINION | By Caleb Hering
This letter was written in response to an article published on Oct. 1, 2021 entitled “I don’t want to grow up” and has been edited for clarity. Have thoughts on an article, criticism of a story or insights on something we’ve previously covered? Submit your letter to the editors at https://thecatalystnews.com/write-to-us/ or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com.
There is something you should know about me, keep your mind open. I spend my days with a child. They accompany me everywhere. And I know by now you are laughing, thinking me odd, but I hope you will understand. Sometimes my words betray me. Maybe I should start with a description of my day.
I wake up around seven. Some days my child is still asleep, not hearing the alarm or ignoring it. Other days — invigorating as it is taxing — I wake up and they are already jumping to start the day, intruding upon every thought, “Can I have coffee? Can you have too much coffee? How much is too much?”
These mornings are hard. I cannot always put these questions aside and many days I end up running late to breakfast, yanking my child along by their unkempt scruffy hair as they dig their heels in, scribing lines on the concrete — how tiring it all can be!
You may empathize with my occasional wish that they would go away. But it is only fleeting.
If I walk without them, I will easily miss everything beautiful, odd, confoundedly plain, and infinitely interesting. Oh! What conversations we have! My child is always asking questions. And these questions have questions. (If I indulge even a little then they will come back asking tenfold.) But these questions, this insatiable curiosity usually adds so much to my life.
Can you imagine how boring it would be to take a tree only for a tree and not know its genus, or what those dangly bits do—what those dangly bits are even called—crabapples? “Are you sure?” they’ll ask and shit! I am not, maybe I should look it up…
I have barely broached the second hour of my day and already learned something new. I have not learned if they are crabapples or their tree’s genus, but I have learned that our school has a website dedicated to what trees inhabit the campus and next to this tree is a Western Catalpa.
“What is a Western Catalpa? Is there an Eastern one too?” Well I do not really know but let’s find out… seems to be a large shade tree and will have clusters of white fragrant flowers and enormous heart-shaped leaves something about June and—
But already my child is now sitting in the grass digging their nose into the dirt to see what bugs they might find. And so it goes, as you have probably caught on. Tiring, yes. But in June I will walk by this Catalpa peering at its boughs and twigs looking for buds of their bell-shaped flowers, excited for the day which I might walk by and smell their fragrancy wafting through the air. Oh! There is a lot to be had in curiosity. But back to my child.
I have not always had them. (Or taken notice.) There was a time where my silence was not intruded upon at every moment. A time where silence wafted through the air instead of the fragrance of flowers. Peace, you may be thinking, is to be found here. But, dear friend, I assure you it is not.
To me, an empty canvas draws anxiety. What shall I ever paint? What deserves to impede upon the sanctity of this canvas? “Oops.” (Something you never want to hear when you have a child.) Damn! Well? Maybe… My child bumps me, pushing the brush towards the canvas, streaking a red line.
But like the clouds in a pale blue sky, my child and I see something in its irregularities. After all it looks like a pair of lips … “Might as well paint a face” My face, or yours? “Well, we are the same.” They really do surprise you, you know, with their sparks of awareness. It would be a mistake to assume any child unaware. Frequently I find my child to be more aware than I.
Maybe that is what I attempt to convey. It is just a feeling though. Oh! What fickle things: emotions … ideas — “What fickle thing you are!” Hah! So aptly put. I have digressed again. Let me straighten this all out.
Finally making it to breakfast, walking through the door, I hold it for my child. They run ahead or trail behind and sometimes I am left waiting so I let the door fall into place. Of course, the closing door prompts a game: Will they make it through in time? Will they drop something and grab it just at the last moment before the scissor-like door comes down upon them?
Of course, the door would never shear them in two, and there is no danger … “But it is fun to imagine!” Yes, it is fun to imagine.
I think you may have the gist. Even I started to bore myself. But I hope you enjoyed it. While the constant presence of a child is tiring, their incessant curiosity livens me tenfold. Maybe letting your child accompany you (And do not believe for a moment you do not have one!) might prove enjoyable. It might just alert you to the fragrance floating through the air. How pitiful it would go unnoticed!