by Andy Capp
“I just can’t wait for winter, Dad!”
I dearly love my son and his unique perspective on nearly everything, but after 15 odd blocks of constant 7 year old oratory on nearly everything, I must admit that I wasn’t exactly hanging on every word. Then came that line about the impending season...ugh! The memories of Ma Nature’s welcome home party when I came back from Seattle last fall are still too fresh--the ice storm that was eclipsed by another, then another, all topped off by a few feet of blizzards and double digits below zero for a few months. I can tell you, it took a toll on a body already in the throws of Latte withdrawal!
Perceptive kid that he is, Nicholas saw it all in the slight roll of my eyes. “Come on, Dad, winter is the best! All the snow!!!! Snow for snowballs, forts, sledding....”
“...shoveling, getting the car stuck in a drift, slipping on the ice...,” all of that in my mind, as my eyes began to glaze (frost?!) over.
Mr. Optimism laughed. “Oh Dad! It’s just because you’re a grown-up! See, kids like to have fun!” I nearly jumped the curb.
Perception is a funny thing. As an adult looking back, I see children as somewhat naive, living in a world immensely smaller than the real one I find myself being a speck in. Kids don’t understand what things really mean, how hard day to day surviving can be, why some days would be better spent in bed, avoiding reality...then those words.
There are rules for clowns, did you know that? I didn’t until I spent some time clowning with a friend in college, a friend who was a card carrying, professional clown. The first rule, don’t ever speak--a tough one for someone who grew up with the Bozos and Shrine Clowns of the world. But then, these weren’t considered “real” clowns (okay...). There were also rules about dropping juggling balls, putting on makeup, putting on socks.... Okay, it didn’t go quite that far, but nearly.
It seemed that for a while I barely took a step as a clown without worrying whether I would trip right. Just when I began to fear that the ghost of Emmitt Kelly would appear and let me have it with a wet fish, I heard the laughter. The kids were laughing, even though I made sounds with my mouth (not words, but it’s hard for a guy like me to keep my mouth completely shut), even though I hadn’t literally “hit the road” before driving to the show. I suddenly realized that it was fine to know the rules, but sometimes it was okay to break them. After that, I added a rule, my own number one, the only one I continued to religiously follow, to my partners shame. The rule? Just be a clown.
From snow to being silly to really seeing the world, children have it all over adults. For them, life is boundless, filled with possibility and joy. As adults, it’s really our world that has gotten smaller. We build the walls of our own little empires then add defenses to keep the rest of the world out. Our focus becomes so narrow that we quit looking for the forest among the trees, much less the family of squirrels living in that tree. And look at that bug, how does he stick to the bark of the tree, and how many bug miles will he traverse reaching the top?
Kind of sad, isn’t it? The whole world is there. We have it in our hands. It’s all possible. Then, as the years go by, it slips through our fingers for a million reasons, none of which are worth losing our childhood to.
“I guess it’s good that there are grown-ups though, Dad. Otherwise, everybody would be playing and nothing would ever get done.” Damned if he wasn’t right again. There is a fine line between childlike and childish. We all know examples of that. I myself have tip toed that razors edge more than once. There are certain absolutes in every life, pesky details that assure survival. Dreaming and laughing are wonderful and important, but wouldn’t be possible too long without food and shelter.
“You know what I wish, Dad? I wish you could be a kid sometimes. Then you wouldn’t have to work all the time and you could play.” Me too. A happy medium would be nice, and creatively invigorating. How exciting it would be to take all the important details a client wants in a commercial to a 7 year old visionary who not only doesn’t know the rules, but would care less about them if he did. There has been so much talk the last few years about finding the inner child, the one with all the answers, when the real answer comes from opening your eyes and really seeing the world outside of your own self-imposed boundaries. It takes much more effort and pain to create something out of nothing over and over than it does to start with a page continuously filled with bright images and brilliant thoughts.
There is a fence that needs to be straddled here, and the grass is awfully green on both sides. Maybe it’s more like a teeter totter, and to maintain a bit of balance a person needs to nibble from both sides.
When in doubt, remember rule number one.