Writers Note: It’s been seven years, y’all. Seven years since sweet William broke his tiny, little bones. He’s now 14… same age as his cousin Margot. It’s also seven years since I looked 37 in the FACE and began to face my own fears as a writer and put myself OUT THERE. Where is that? I still don’t know, but I am still loving it all on the brink of my 45th birthday, seven years later. Much love to you all . . .
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read. Books, to me, are and always will be like dreaming; only with beautiful words and some well thought out directions on how to get where you want to go. As a young child, I was drawn to writers who seemed like children themselves, only trapped in adult sized bodies. They never wanted to grow up, but did, gaining the wisdom and experience to hang on to the wonderment of youth, not the banality and strife of the grown up world. Along with Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein was and is one of my all time favorites:
“Listen to the mustn’ts child
Listen to the don’ts
Listen the shouldn’ts
The impossibles, the won’ts
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me
Anything can happen, child, anything can be.”
It’s this idealized view of the world and all its infinite possibilities that make being a kid, a dreamer, so intoxicating.
And then you fall down.
Maybe you fall hard and far, or maybe you just trip and get a scratch, but you get up and you might dust yourself off and say “that wasn’t so bad.”
But then it happens again . . . and again . . . and again. We dust ourselves off and our small bodies are still intact from the outside at least. But something intangible begins to be left in its place. It’s a voice on the inside telling us we aren’t good enough, or maybe the voices are on the outside too. But now our dreams don’t seem so inevitable anymore, there’s now the very adult and very real thing that runs through the delicate fabric of their innocence; fear and the reality that no matter how bad you want your dream to come true, it not as easy as it seems.
I was thinking about this the other day after Charlie’s cousin from New Hampshire called to say his seven year old son, William had fallen fifteen feet off a chair lift, breaking both his legs.
My heart broke to see him like that but I have to admit I wasn’t necessarilysurprised. See, William is all boy, an adventurer, an all out explorer of life. It reminded me of a list I found at their camp this summer, dictated by William to his mother, and written in her swirling cursive on yellow legal paper taped to the fridge. It went like this:
William’s Top Ten Things to do Before He Dies:
1.) Swim across Lake Winnipesaukee
2.) Catch a huge bass, name him Larry, then let him go
3.) Own a floating camp
4.) Own a junk yard
5.) Own a sea plane
6.) Land in the clouds and see the tooth fairies
7.) Live in a bob house (for all of you non-northerner’s, that’d be an ice fishing shed)
8.) Sleep in the rafters
Numbers nine and ten were left blank probably because he got impatient, grabbed his rod, and went out looking for Larry, the screen door banging shut behind him. I remember smiling. It was quite the list, ambitious, yet pretty much attainable and pure William. Though I’m not sure about landing in the clouds on a sea plane, but who I’m I to crush a young boy’s dreams? I used to have big dreams too, when I was his age.
But didn’t we all, then life happens and these dreams that were once so bright, so vivid, so surely within our reach, fade slowly with wear and tear like the scuffs on our knees and elbows . . . and the fractures deep in our bones. Don’t we all want to tell little William not to be scared, not to give up on seeing life as a full-blown adventure? Because maybe there is something in all of us that wished we didn’t succumb to a certain fear, or picked a safer path, or let go of a dream little by little because we thought we weren’t good enough to keep it for ourselves any longer.
Only the most beautiful truth of all is that it’s never too late to live your dream, or discover it in the first place. I think it’s because life happens that we can find what makes us happy in this world. And maybe it doesn’t end up being a childhood wish made on a star or on a piece of yellow legal paper in our mother’s handwriting, but something even more exhilarating and intoxicating and real.
Take these two extraordinary women for example:
Julia Childs enrolled at Cordon Bleu in Paris at the age of thirty-seven. She had been married for two years, was madly in love with her husband, French food, and French culture. Could she have ever imagined writing Mastering the Art of French Cooking, when she was younger, single, and living in Pasadena?
Erma Bombeck started her career at thirty-seven becoming one the most widely read columnists in history. Could she have written about domestic life with such insight and humor out of college without the husband, three kids, the dog and the station wagon?
I just keep thinking of Vincent Van Gogh’s words asking “what would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” One thing is for sure; there wouldn’t be a Shel Silverstein, an Erma or a Julia, or for that matter, a Starry Night.
For me, I find as I get older, my life experiences, the trials, the tribulations, open up even more possibilities and my dreams become richer and more complex. I’m just reminded that no matter what our age, seven or fifty-seven, we should still shoot for the stars, or like sweet William tells us, aim for the clouds where the tooth fairies live.